THE Ilouse of Commons is about to appoint a select committee to look into the finances of the monarchy. It will be quite a high-powered affair. By tradition the Chancellor of the Exchequer serves on such a committee, so does the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the House, and the rest of the fifteen to twenty members are made up of senior back benchers from both sides of the House. The need has arisen because of , the inflation which has effectively halved the value of the Queen's Civil List since it was granted by Parliament at the beginning of the reign. It has been known for some time that the Queen has had difficulty in making ends meet and something now has to be done about it.
I am a little nervous about the committee: it is likely to include amongst its members Mr William Hamilton, the Labour Member of Parliament, who has been one of the strongest and most vitriolic critics of royal "extravagance". Actually in private life Mr. Hamilton is one of the most charming and engaging of men but he seems to have a "hang up" on the royal family. Will the committee he used as a sounding hoard for Mr. Hamil ton's campaign against the monarchy? Will the daylight which Walter Bagehot counselled should not be let in upon "magic" conic flooding in on the monarchy? Probably not. The select committee has the right to sit in private or in public, and once the members are appointed it is a breach of privilege to speak about the work of the committee outside Parliament until it has presented its report. But what of the actual state of the royal finances'? The Queen is undoubtedly a very rich woman although much of her wealth (like that of the Pope) is tied up in unrealisable assets. She could no more in practice sell the contents of the Queen's Gallery than the Pope could auction off the contents of the Vatican Museum.
What price can be put on Buckingham Palace or the Vatican Palace for that matter? The Queen's private fortune is not subject to death duties nor to income tax and this does give her an enormous advantage but apart from that her position does not differ from that of any other well off subject. People sometimes think that the whole royal family draws on public money but this is not so. Only a handful of members receive any support from public funds, namely the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, their children, Princess Margaret, the Queen Mother and the Duke of Gloucester.
The principal source of the public income of the sovereign is the Civil List which is voted at the beginning of each reign and is made up as follows : Privy Purse (personal spending) £60,000; Household Salaries £185,000; Household Expenses £l21,800: Royal Bounty for the support of charities £13,200; supplementary provision £95,000; making a grand total of £475,000. It sounds rather a lot but in fact it is considerably less than the list granted to King George VI which amounted to £410000 at a time when money values were considerably higher than today. In addition to the Civil List income the sovereign, or heir to the throne, is entitled to the incomes of the Duchies of l.ancaster and Cornwall.
As to the other members of the royal family, the Queen Mother gets £70,000, the Duke of Edinburgh £40,000, Princess Margaret £15,000 and the Duke of Gloucester £35,000. Princess Anne and any other daughters of the Queen ,are entitled to £6,000 a year at twenty-one which is increased to £15,000 on marriage. Sons of the sovereign other than the heir to the throne receive £10,000 a year at twenty-one which becomes £25,000 a year on marriage.
The heir to the throne on reaching the age of 21 becomes entitled to the whole of the income from the Duchy of Cornwall which is in the region of £170,000. While the Queen drew this money her Civil List income was reduced by eight-tenths of this amount. Prince Charles' income is subject to income tax.
Most of the Queen's income goes in supporting her household and keeping up the magnificent external appearances of monarchy. The rise in the wage and salary bill has accounted for much of her present difficulties. In fact the court is very small: s'ie is served by a dozen or so high ranking private officials who are paid while the other members of the court are honorary and receive no monetary award.
The palace has had an efficiency check by an expert firm but while this reduced the financial deficit it has not climinaled it. What the country has to decide is whether it wants a bicycling monarchy on the Scandinavian model or whether it wants to keep up the pomp of state. 1 have no hesitation in casting my vote for the latter concept. There is something to be said for no monarchy and something to be said for a splendid one but a mean monarchy has nothing to he said for it at all.
The monarchy in its present form is in fact one of our greatest national assets. It unites the country; it increases the prestige of Britain; yearly it attracts millions of tourists to our chores. The Queen sets a magnificent example of dedication and devotion in an age which is dominated by selfishness and self-interest, She does a wonderful job and she should be enabled to carry it out in a manner commensurute ++ith a country as great as our own,