Clause 1. — (Payment of Hereditary Revenues to the Exchequer.)

Orders of the Day — Civil List Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd July 1952.

Alert me about debates like this

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

10.25 p.m.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

Before we pass Clause 1, I think that we should get some further explanation from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think that we should get some definition of what he actually means by the hereditary revenues. I should like to know why, in this Bill, some of the hereditary revenues do not pass to the Consolidated Fund but remain in the hands of the Crown.

We are very anxious to help the Chancellor of the Exchequer so that he may get as much revenue as possible for balancing his bills. If he turns to the Report of the Committee which was set up to inquire into this matter, he will find, on page 5, these words: the net revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster, which have averaged since the end of the war about £90,000, accrue to the Sovereign by inheritance. I should like to know why in this Bill the Chancellor has not taken powers to take the £90,000 from the Duchy of Lancaster in the same way as he takes the revenue of the Duchy of Cornwall. Surely exactly the same arguments which are adduced in order to secure for the Consolidated Fund an easement of the very great burdens of the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall apply equally in the case of the Duchy of Lancaster. I suggest that on the Report stage the Chancellor, now that his attention has been drawn to the matter that £90,000 should be coming in to ease the burden, should redraft this Clause.

I suggest there is another reason why at this stage the revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster should come to the nation, because if it is a principle that no member of the Royal Family shall take part in business, we also hold that it is undignified on the part of any member of the Royal Family to receive money from rent. We argue that the Crown should be taken away entirely from the principle of hereditary rent, that the Monarch should be above taking such a mean thing as rent, and that we should use this opportunity in the new age that is coming along for the Monarch to be entirely isolated from the hereditary principle of taking rent.

I suggest, therefore, that here is a magnificent opportunity for the Chancellor to make the Crown above the idea of a landed aristocracy entirely, and to make the Crown really democratic. Now that the Chancellor's attention has been drawn to the fact that there is this £90,000 waiting to be gathered up, I suggest that now we are on the scaffold and before the trap door opens we should lift this £90,000.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

This question of hereditary revenues has already been mentioned in some of our debates, and there has been an idea that there is a sort of bargain between the Crown and the Chancellor of the Exchequer or Parliament. In fact that is not the case. If we look at the hereditary revenues in history, we find that they were in fact the monies on which the ordinary administration of the country was run. They were not necessarily the private apanage of the Royal Family which would mean the money which the Royal Family expended on their private account.

These revenues were of a variety of character. Some even became merged in the Customs and Excise revenues, called the temporary revenues. There are the Crown lands, the small branches of the hereditary revenues, and the hereditary access to Post Office revenues. All these have, at varying dates in the history of the Royal Family, been transferred, and, as I have said, although there was no bargain, they are not now really of any account in dealing with our problem today. The small branches of the hereditary revenues, for example, were kept apart from the hereditary revenues of George III and George IV and were surrendered by William IV and Queen Victoria and all subsequent Sovereigns.

10.30 p.m.

I do not think, therefore, that there is very much mystery about these matters. These small revenues consist of the proceeds of intestate estates, sundry fines, small surpluses, etc., derived from the Channel Islands, and other matters. The fact that they are now merged in the general account does not make it necessary for me, according to the words of the hon. Member, to revise this Bill on Report stage in the sense that he wants.

He raised a second point about the Duchy of Lancaster. The revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster amounted, in the year 1950–51, to about £100,000. When this matter was discussed in 1936–37 the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Neville Chamberlain, drew attention to the fact, in answering the then Leader of the Opposition, who is also the present Leader of the Opposition, that the monies from the Duchy of Lancaster were a historical survival originally the property of the Crown and credited to the Crown ever since.

There are fluctuations in these properties, so one cannot give an absolute certain sum for an indefinite future, but I think that it is in accordance with tradition and useful to the needs of the Royal Family and indeed useful to Parliament in assessing the general sum which the Royal Family needs—that this sum accruing from the Duchy of Lancaster should, according to historical tradition dating from the time of Henry IV, be accredited to the Royal Family. I have attempted to give the hon. Member a short explanation of these matters. I am afraid that the Government are unwilling to amend the Clause on Report stage in the sense for which he asked.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.