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Nationalisation of the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th May 1975.

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Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Central Fife 12:00 am, 13th May 1975

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to take into public ownership without compensation the two estates known as the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall. I hope that I shall be allowed to introduce this relatively non-controversial Bill without a vote.

I should like to spend a minute or two on each of the estates in question. As the estate agents would say, the Duchy of Lancaster is a very desirable estate. It has been in existence since 1265, the land having been stolen or taken from Simon de Montfort and the Earl of Ferrers. Nobody has ever satisfactorily explained why the revenues from both estates were not surrendered by the Crown within the terms of the so-called bargain struck in 1760.

I turn to one or two figures relating to the Duchy of Lancaster. In 1944 the total receipts from the estate were £154,791. In 1974 they were £1,226,966. Her Majesty the Queen's share of the swag was £100,000, tax-free, at the beginning of her reign. In 1972 –73 it had gone up to £295,000, and in 1973 –74 the Queen took £325,000.

I obtained some figures from the Treasury from which I ascertained that to have a net income of £300,000 in the year, unearned, which is what it was according to the Treasury, one would need a gross investment income of about £15 million in the year. I quote that figure as a measure of what the Crown is getting from what it chooses to describe as its private estate.

The year 1973 –74 was particularly good for income from what are called devolutions and forfeitures. For the benefit of the uninitiated I should explain that this is an income from the estates of people who die intestate and without traceable relatives. The whole of those estates go direct to the Duchy and in 1973 –74 they amounted to £164,825. In that same year rents provided £417,365.

It is not too well known that the accounts of the two Duchies, which are supposed to be private estates, are available to Members not in the Vote Office but only on request in the Library. One has to have photocopies made because only one copy of the accounts is kept there. I have photocopies. From them one can discover that the salaries of the officials and functionaries in the Duchy of Lancaster in 1974 amounted to £94,532.

We as Members of Parliament may not know, are not allowed to know and never will know who is getting what for doing what. In other words, there is a complete lack of public accountability in these matters. To ask for information about the Duchy of Lancaster and still more about the Duchy of Cornwall is like trying to get information from the KGB. Journalists have told me that they have telephoned the Duchy of Cornwall office genuinely seeking information and have been told to mind their own ruddy business. So would I be, but I secured such information as I could garner from the annual accounts.

I turn to the Duchy of Cornwall. I shall give a brief historical outline of this estate. The Duchy was created in 1337 by Edward III with a Royal Charter—long before there was any element of parliamentary democracy—which created the eldest son of the monarch as the Duke of Cornwall. The estate was his of right, his private estate from that time onwards. That estate was originally stolen from the Earls of Cornwall. The Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall therefore have one thing in common—they were both the result of Royal looting. That is why I am proposing a Bill to nationalise them without compensation so that there will be no cost to the taxpayer.

The Duchy of Cornwall comprises about 130,000 acres located between the flower fields of the Isles of Scilly and the Oval cricket ground in Kennington, from the tenant farms in Dartmouth to tenement property in Lambeth. In 1974 receipts from this estate were £1,339,010, of which £773,682 was from rents. The same applies with the Duchy of Cornwall as applies with the Duchy of Lancaster in respect of people who die intestate without known relatives. That money goes straight into the coffers of the Duchy, and therefore straight into the pocket of the Prince of Wales.

Last year money from that source amounted to £31,181. Who gets the rake off here? One need only refer again to the annual accounts. One finds that the salaries of the functionaries, the lackies, the hangers on—call them what you will—amounted to £103,338 in addition to over £93,000 for the salaries and expenses of land stewards, collectors and so forth. Payments made to the Prince of Wales in 1974 amounted to £202,173 tax free. That is the equivalent of a taxable income of about £10 million a year.

No one has yet told me, and no one was able to tell the Select Committee on which I sat three or four years ago, why this income is not taxed. It is time that it was. It is time that we took this measure of nationalisation. We have a lot of nationalisers on the Front Bench and they have my whole-hearted support. I hope that I shall find them in the Lobby with me tonight if there is a vote.


Philip Hosking
Posted on 12 Dec 2009 11:31 am (Report this annotation)

""The same applies with the Duchy of Cornwall as applies with the Duchy of Lancaster in respect of people who die intestate without known relatives. That money goes straight into the coffers of the Duchy, and therefore straight into the pocket of the Prince of Wales""

Yes but what is not said is that this intestate law only covers the territory of Cornwall and not Duchy lands outside of the Cornwall.

This is for the simple reason that, constitutionally, what is described as the 'county' of Cornwall is in fact a royal Duchy with a status not dissimilar to a Crown Protectorate.

For more on the Duchy of Cornwall read:

Jim Pengelly
Posted on 12 Dec 2009 10:55 pm (Report this annotation)

Whilst it is correct to draw attention to the extreme difficulty in obtaining information from the Duchy of Cornwall, I feel that this proposed Bill fails to understand, or acknowledge, the true constitutional position of the Duchy of Cornwall and is in danger of perpetuating a great wrong against the Cornish people. The question that should be pursued, and absolute transparency guaranteed, is: "what is the truth about the de jure Cornish constitution?" I would suggest that this is the real reason behind the secrecy and reticence to respond to questions.

There is an alternative view to the Bill's suggestion that, "That estate was originally stolen from the Earls of Cornwall", namely, that Cornwall is, in truth, a Crown Dependency, or Protectorate and the Earldom was augmented into a Duchy as stated within the relevant Acts, Charters and associated documentation. The proposed Bill’s reference specifically to 'estate' echoes the official presentation of the Duchy of Cornwall as a 'private estate'’ having little or nothing to do with the geographical territory of Cornwall, other than in its name. This is a false presentation equally of the title of 'Duchy of Cornwall', its territorial extent, and the Cornish people.

Although this alternative view was clearly argued and evidenced by the legal counsel for the Duchy of Cornwall, in a case of private arbitration between the Crown and Duchy over ownership of the mineral rights to the Cornish Foreshore (1855-1857), subsequent events have seen a deliberate and progressive disassociation of the Duchy of Cornwall from the territory of Cornwall. This has further accelerated a process, which denies the Cornish people being seen within their rightful historical context, as one of the indigenous nations of Britain. This wilful, and high-level destruction of the Cornish nation has now become institutionalised and should be brought out into the open, in order to restore our rights.

In essence, the Duchy of Cornwall is legally, and constitutionally, the territory of Cornwall to which were annexed and united forever various rights and estates, including the civil government of Cornwall!