August 4

Duplicitous government


We have long argued in these columns that rather than costing the British taxpayer money, the British government makes a handsome profit from the monarchy. The amount that is actually paid is not a personal allowance or salary to The Queen; it is to pay for the costs of maintaining  the role and function of the head of state, as well as buildings forming part of the national heritage.

But the government is unreasonably refusing to undertake the most basic repairs to government property. The chart below was prepared by parliamentary officers and published  in The Economist of 30 June. It explains how the British government is misappropriating millions of pounds from the purpose for which the funds were intended.   

During the course of the recent Senate Inquiry I tried to explain to Senator Cameron that rather than the British taxpayer subsidising the monarchy, the British government makes a very handsome profit from it. (I am sending this column to the relevant Senate Finance and Administration Committee.)

But the government is  no longer fulfilling its  side of the bargain. If a private landlord behaved as the  British government does, the politicians would call for action to be taken to punish them. 

And while heritage buildings crumble, and the Palace of Westminster mired in scandal, the politicians  have quietly and shamelessly introduced new rules which will allow them to claim up to £9,125 a year without producing any receipts.(The Times 28/1)  

But as the London Daily Telegraph ( 6/7) recently said, double standards apply when the Government considers the costs of the monarchy.

“When Gordon Brown's former Treasury fiefdom at Horse Guards Road was refurbished in 2002, it cost £141 million. By contrast, Buckingham Palace, where foreign heads of state are entertained in the national interest, is crumbling, its wiring and pipes a disgrace. Queen Victoria lost a husband, and almost a son too, from typhoid spread by poor plumbing. Today's Royal family has a right to better than Victorian pipework."

The palace needs complete re-wiring, re-plumbing, refurbishment and re-roofing, according to the keeper of the privy purse, Sir Alan Reid. The Telegraph points out this is only part of a backlog at all four state residences that could run to £32m. Some buildings are even in a worse condition than Buckingham Palace.

"The Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore, where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are buried, is so dilapidated that English Heritage has put it on its register of buildings at risk. The Telegraph says much humbug is spoken about royal finances.

“Those few who resent the cost of maintaining the monarchy have little enough to resent, since the annual sum amounts to a mere 69p per person. Even in Holland, the home of the bicycling monarchy, a 70-seat airliner is put at the disposal of the Royal Family.

In the meantime, The Telegraph says too many false economies have been imposed on our Queen. “Perhaps the most grating example of political mean-mindedness was the refusal to commission a successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia, which had secured billions in trade and inestimable goodwill round the world. The yacht is now moored sadly at Leith, with scones on sale to paying visitors to fund its upkeep.” 

An yet in Australia there is still a noisy minority which actually argues for the removal of the Crown and the consequential expansion of the role, functions and powers of the political class.



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