§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. John D. Grant (Islington, East)
I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 2, line 5, to leave out '£980,000' and to insert:£400,000, which sum is hereafter in this Act referred to as the Vote on Royal Family Expenditure'.
§ The Chairman
It will be for the convenience of the Committee to take with this Amendment No. 3, in line 15, to leave out Queen's Civil List ' and to insert:Vote on Royal Family expenditure',Amendment No. 4, in line 15, to leave out second 'Civil List', Amendment No. 5, line 17, to leave out 'Civil List expenditure' and to insert:'the Vote on Royal Family Expenditure',and Amendment No. 20, in Clause 5, page 5, line 2, to leave out 'Civil List expenditure' and to insert:'Vote on Royal Family expenditure'.
§ Mr. Grant
I move this Amendment with some diffidence since I cannot expect to bring to this discussion all the eloquence and kindly, picturesque, old-world charm which my hon. Friend the Member for Fife. West (Mr. William Hamilton) would have brought to the discussion had he been present today. I have sent him a telegram which reads:'Friends at Westminster and Buckingham Palace wish you a speedy recovery. Wish you were here.I did think of making it an all-party telegram by adding the name of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John Stevas), but I thought that would be regarded as a mockery of the afflicted.
I wish to make it clear that I am moving this Amendment perhaps not for the same reasons as those which would have been deployed by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West had he been 496 here. There are a number of Amendments which my hon. Friend originally tabled and which I shall support today, though not entirely without reservation, but primarily because they are far better than the Government's proposals and serve to underline the feeling among some of us that the House has not been properly treated in the matter of the Civil List Bill.
I believe that the House has not been given adequate or sufficient facts on which to sustain the case for an increase of the magnitude proposed or of any magnitude—and indeed, because of the lack of facts, for any increase at all. We are being asked to sign what might be called a continuing blank cheque, because this £980,000 is only a very small part of the amount involved which concerns the taxpayer.
The House has not been given the necessary information to enable it to opt for this figure—usually now referred to as meaning a million-pound Monarch. a phrase which is somewhat phoney since, as we have heard in previous debates. millions more are spent on all sorts of other items by Government Departments in the maintenance of Royal palaces, the Royal yacht, the Queen's Flight, free fuel, free telephones, free stationery and so on. The tendency in recent years has been more and more to pay the Royal bills in this way. This seems to me to have been conveniently forgotten by the Government in arriving at the figure of £980.000.
I come to the question—a question that is relevant to this Amendment—of the private fortune, which many of us on this side of the Committee feel cannot be separated from the known public expenditure, because that money is tax-free. I have pursued the principle underlying the tax-free position of the Royal Family on three separate occasions on the Floor of the House, and I have yet to receive any satisfactory answer. I have pursued this matter once with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. twice with the Leader of the House, and I have not had any answer at all, except that custom and practice must be continued in the good old Conservative style. Therefore, I make no apology for returning to this matter again today.
It is entirely the fault of the Queen and her advisers in the Government that this Amendment is being pressed in this 497 form. If the Select Committee of this House had not been refused the very relevant information about the private fortune and about this incredible tax-free bonanza—we do not know how much, but it must be substantial indeed and clearly it has been enjoyed for many years—there might have been a rather different situation today.
I was pleased that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition accepted on Second Reading that the sensible way out would be for the private fortune to remain private but to be subject to normal taxation. That suggestion, if not wholly satisfactory to everybody, was a fair and reasonable compromise. I regret that the suggestion was not seized upon by the Government, because all that has happened is that it has postponed the argument and controversy to some future occasion—and there will certainly be future occasions. Likewise, the failure to accept the view of the Opposition that there should be a public department to keep proper public control and continuous public scrutiny of these matters must similarly influence discussion today on this Amendment.
I accept that the figure of £400,000 which appears in the Amendment, and which was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West, is perhaps somewhat arbitrary, and I think my hon. Friend probably would also take that view. I am prepared to see the Queen paid fairly for the work she is expected to do, but I do not believe we have been supplied with anything like the necessary information to enable us to decide on the level of that award.
I believe that the Government and the Palace have kept up a smokescreen to prevent the public seeing what is really going on on the whole question of the Royal finances. For these reasons, I hope that the Amendment will be supported.
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)
I should first like to express a word of agreement with the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. John D. Grant) in regretting the absence of the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton). I fear that, in part, I may have been responsible. For some time I have been praying against him, and I fear I may have overdone it. So we 498 now have a debate which I do not suppose one could call Hamlet without the prince because that might cause offence, but certainly Hamlet without the ghost. I am sure we all wish the hon. Member for Fife, West a speedy recovery and I hope that he will be back to play a constructive part in the proceedings on his own important Bill, which deals with the removal of inequalities between the sexes and which will be before the House later in the Session.
I fear that there the point of concord must end, because I regard this Amendment as not only arbitrary, as the proposer himself admitted, but as quite absurd. The Amendment seeks to leave out the sum of £980,000 and to substitute a figure of £400,000. We have been given no explanation whatever as to where this figure came from, who thought it up, or upon what it is based. It is not good enough for an Amendment on a serious matter of this kind to be tabled in such a frivolous manner.
The figures which are given in the Civil List show how absurd this particular figure is. The salaries of the Royal Household alone amount to £448,000, so that the only effect of the Amendment would be either that the numbers employed would be cut down and unemployment would be increased, which I think hardly anyone in his right senses will propose at the present time, or that it would be necessary to cut down the salaries of those employed in the Palace. Is that what right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to see happen? That is the ineluctable consequence of their proposal. They have left no money for the expenses of the Household which, as we see in the Civil List, amount to £200,000. How are they to be met if the Amendment is passed?
After all, the Select Committee, with the exception perhaps of the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), was in basic agreement—
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
The hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Joel Barnett) adopted a position of total agnosticism to this issue, saying that he had no information and, therefore, could make no contribution.
§ [Mr. GODMAN IRVINE in the Chair]
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I have had the pleasure, if that be the right word, of listening to the hon. Gentleman speaking in the Committee. I know his attitude has been determined by his view that insufficient information has been made available. But the Committee as a whole agreed that it was not possible to cut down the expenses of the Monarchy without major changes in function.
If one looks to the functions which it would be possible to change, one finds that they would be changed only at great public loss. One of the main items of expenditure, for example, is that incurred on the Royal Mews. It would be possible to save money by cutting out that expenditure entirely, but it would be at a very high price. A high price would be paid in terms of the loss of tourist revenue alone. Millions of people come here as tourists because the country is a monarchy, and they want to see the show going on. That is not an argument which appeals to me in defence of the Monarchy. It is an argument ad hominem, but it is a point which is very relevant. There would be a great loss to the ceremonial aspects of the Monarchy if we closed the Royal Mews. The State Opening of Parliament, the Trooping of the Colour, and so on, would all have to go.
The Amendment is financially absurd and, I think, puritanical and mean-spirited. It is noticeable from the post that I have received on this subject—and it is supported by the results of the polls carried out in the Evening Standard and elsewhere—that on the whole it is older people who resent expenditure on the Monarchy. On the whole, the younger generation is pleased to see this money being spent. In view of that, I reject the Amendment as being moved on behalf of those who are petty minded and, on the whole, ancient.
We have had plenty of information on the subject. I, for one, interested as I am in the Monarchy, would not have wanted to prolong the sittings of the Select Committee by a single day. I 500 doubt whether anyone else wanted to. We had ample opportunity for getting information, and all the information on the public expenditure of the Monarchy is there. It is true that we were not given information on the private fortune, which is such an obsession with hon. Gentlemen opposite, especially the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man). The private fortune is irrelevant. It is a totally separate issue. The issue is whether we wish the Monarchy to perform certain functions and, if we do, whether we should provide the means for it to do so. If we will the end, we must will the means. That is why I oppose the Amendment.
§ Mr. Richard Crossman (Coventry, East)
I must first congratulate the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) on making one of his speeches. At least the hon. Gentleman has the courage of his deep deferential convictions. He speaks with a deference to the Pope and to the Queen—
§ Mr. Crossman
I agree that the hon. Gentleman has no deference to me. However, I prefer no one to be deferential to anyone. That is the difference between us. But it is nice to hear from the hon. Gentleman the old laws and saws repeated to us, because they stimulate us to join the debate once again. Each time that we speak here, a few more people outside read and digest. Every time that they do that, we convert them to our views.
One of the most striking features of the Civil List is that it is the last Civil List of this kind that there will ever be. The Treasury Bench know very well that they will not be able to do this again. The Monarchy cannot again behave with what I must say has been its almost indecent arrogance when it is submitted to a Select Committee. It is impossible. We have won the battle on this Civil List, whatever the vote today, whatever the abstentions today, and whatever the studied lack of interest today. Outside in the country there is a great deal of mild, detached, sceptical interest in the hypocrisies with which the Civil Lists have been prepared on this occasion.
501 I speak as someone who believes that the Monarchy is a useful instrument for siphoning off our harmless snobbish emotions on to impotent people. As long as they are impotent, as long as we siphon off our emotions, as long as we are snobbish about them and we love them, it takes us out of the dialectic of politics and makes us have a parliamentary democracy. The more that we have a parliamentary democracy, the more that we need something to abstract our emotions. The trouble is that the more educated we are, the stronger the snobbery. The stronger the snobbery which possesses us, the more useful it is to have this harmless amount of deference which the hon. Member for Chelmsford feels and expresses so passionately. That is fine.
If we have it in a sophisticated democracy which understands what is going on, perhaps better than Members of Parliament, certain parts of it had better not be mystical. The one area where there should be no mystery is cash. The House of Commons must be as cash conscious and as hard-headed about cash for the Monarchy as it is about cash for the Health Service or anything else. It must have exactly the same treatment, no more and no less.
This Report on the Civil List was designed to obfuscate the real facts and to prevent the Select Committee knowing any basis on which to assess a reasonable sum. That is what we are discussing today. It has been demonstrated overwhelmingly that, on the basis of the facts provided to the Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Joel Barnett) was the one logical member of the Select Committee who said quite simply, "On that basis, if I am scrupulous, I cannot make un my mind whether the sum should be £980,000 or £430,000, because the essential facts have been denied me."
The hon. Member for Chelmsford repeated the nonsense of saying that the facts which were denied the Committee were irrelevant. I come back to this again. The size of the private fortunes of the Prince of Wales and of the Queen are relevant, not because they are private fortunes, but because they are free of tax. They are accumulating fortunes which have not paid death duties since death duties were instituted in 1894 and 502 on which no income tax or surtax is payable. They have their great landed estates. Many of us who have farming interests may feel that, if we were free of tax, we could make a go of them and win. Royal farms are unfairly privileged in a way which other farms are not.
Let us consider Royal investments in equities. All we can say is that they are completely secret. How much is locked away in strongboxes in Switzerland none of us know. How much is invested in American securities or American holdings in New York property, how much is speculated, no one is allowed to know.
§ Mr. Crossman
I have no objection to not knowing the private income if it is fully taxed. When it is fully taxed we have no right to pry. If the Royal income is taxed as our incomes are taxed, it becomes private income just like our own. But while it retains the privilege and the monopoly of being tax-free it is not private income in the sense that any other citizen's income is private. Therefore, it is a matter of public concern for a very simple reason.
The hon. Member for Chelmsford said that the Amendment is absurd. He said that this reduction is absurd. Of course it is, but it is no more absurd than the original figure. We put down this Amendment to demonstrate the point that whatever figure is put down is absurd because of the denial of the essential information.
In trying to make sense of it—I thought that we put down quite a sensible figure —the hon. Gentleman said that it just about covered the salaries, and added, "Oh dear, that will leave £200,000 of expenditure uncovered."
Let us consider the Prince of Wales. Thanks to the Committee, we know a little about the Prince of Wales's estates. We can now calculate that the Prince of Wales owns land alone, apart from equities, valued at more than £20 million. We know that he has an annual income from those estates of at least £500,000 whenever he wants it. Sums of this size must affect our estimate of how much of the expenditure we should pay. Of course we shall pay the salaries. We 503 know that the £1 million is only one-fifth of what we pay. We are already paying through our Departments of State—the Ministry of Public Building and Works, and the Ministry of Defence, and other Departments—the main items of what might be called public expenditure to the Queen. They are already covered in a whole series of items spread over various Departments. About £4 million of Royal expenditure is accepted as public expenditure.
What about the rest of it, so to speak? At this point we put forward the proposal that there should be a small Department whose job it should be to run Royalty, in the sense of allocating a fair amount, and to report to and advise us. This recommendation was defeated by the Government's automatic majority. They refused to have supervision of the expenditure. If we refuse to supervise the private expenditure and to look into the private income— we know it only to be vast—it is ludicrous to say that we can decide how much to allocate beyond the payment of salaries to cover expenditure.
The Committee proved conclusively that no sharp line can be drawn regarding Royalty between private and public expenditure. I take as a simple example the Queen's Wardrobe. Who is to discriminate between which is public and private entertaining? It is impossible to make the distinction. If it is impossible to make the distinction between private and public expenditure, it is also impossible to make the distinction between private and public income and private and public capital. All these things link together.
We on this side would like nothing better than to avoid prying. We should like nothing better than to allow the Queen to be treated like any other citizen and have her private wealth to herself as secret as anybody else's. The Committee could then do its job of assessing the Civil List. All the Votes would be normal Departmental Votes. There would not need to be this special Vote, because it would all be covered as four-fifths of it is covered today.
The reason that the one-fifth is left in this form is to mystify us on the essential issue of the vast private fortune. The more I reflect on this the more I am shocked by the advice that Royalty has 504 received from the Government. After all, in the sessions of the Select Committee we did not overplay our hand. We were extremely quiet, but we made it absolutely clear that certain information was essential and should and must be provided to afford a firm base for our assessment.
What happened? The courtiers—it was not their fault—went back to the Palace, spoke to Royalty, and were sent back with instructions to say that they knew nothing about it. That is what they said. They were asked a question. Having learned the question, they went back to the Palace and then came back and said, "All we can tell you is that we do not know."
I was accused at the last meeting of being wrong in making the allegation that the information was refused by the Queen. I will repeat the sequence of events. Lord Cobbold was asked to inform himself about the size of the private fortune. He told the Committee that he knew nothing about it. Are we to believe that he neglected his duty? Are we to be told that he never went back and told Her Majesty what the Select Committee had requested?
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
There are many errors in what the right hon. Gentleman is saying, but I should like to point out one in particular. He has referred to the Select Committee having asked. This is an important point. The Select Committee never asked for this information. One or two Members of the Select Committee wanted this information, so it was asked for as a piece of private enterprise, so to speak. It was not an official request on the part of the Committee.
§ Mr. Crossman
We have plenty of time for discussion. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to address the Committee again, we shall be delighted to hear him and to answer him yet again. I look forward to his intervention. I look forward with interest to what he may say in exposing my inaccuracies.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
This kind of argument will not stand up. I have probably sat on more Select Committees than any Member on this side of the House. I have specialised in that kind 505 of thing. When any individual Member, including an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, asks for information, it is well known that his side want the information. Nobody doubts that if the information had been forthcoming it would have eased the position of members of the Select Committee. A Select Committee is not a matter of private enterprise. It strives always for an agreed statement. No one likes minority reports. This was heavily underlined by the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, and there was a flat obligation on Lord Cobbold to bring back the information. Obviously he did not come back on his own say-so.
§ Mr. Crossman
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for confirming the record. The record makes it crystal clear that the information was refused to the Select Committee by the Queen. Of course, we must also assume that it was refused on the advice of the Government.
I was criticising, not the Queen, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman must have known what would happen if he advised the Queen that she could and should refuse to give the information. He knew that it would split the Committee on a crucial issue, and that is what it did. The blame rests, not with Royalty, but entirely with the Government and the Chancellor. They showed a kind of blind, wooden stupidity. They took the view, "We have a majority, and we are going to do what we want."
It was a desperate mistake. The Chancellor knows that as a result of that mistake people have turned against Royalty on this issue. The Chancellor had the impertinence to refer to the polls as in some way sustaining his view. The most recent poll, which received so little publicity, showed that whereas the whole country broadly thought that the Queen should have an increase, when it came to the amount proposed by the Government the proportions were almost reversed. The fact was that 30 per cent. became 50 per cent., and 50 per cent. became 30 per cent. A clear majority thought that what was being given, that this total which we are voting against by the Amendment, was too high.
How did this change take place over the sum involved? In my view it occurred basically because of the revelation of the 506 size of the royal fortune and the unwise refusal to reveal to the Select Committee facts for which the minority of the Committee asked. The fault lies not only in the denial of information, but also in the deliberate mystification, in the concealing of four-fifths of the sum involved in Departmental votes, so that we talk about the million pound monarchy.
The trouble arises from deliberate mystification. That mystification would immediately and automatically have been remedied by our proposal to set up a small department which would have all these things under its control and would publish details of them. It is dishonest to talk about this as being the main sum when it is in fact less than one-fifth of what is being paid, and four-fifths of the total is being paid already through Government Departments. That is the second point on which we strongly object.
The third reason is that the size of the private fortune is relevant as long as it is not taxed. I do not want to dwell on that any further, because it is a point that we have got across successfully. When the Finance Bill is introduced, I shall look forward to seeing in it a new Clause dealing with this matter because, after all, the House of Commons has a simple way of rectifying this matter. It can be done in the next Finance Bill. Perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer will show wisdom. Perhaps he will consider that it would be a good thing to give way on this and introduce into the Finance Bill a Clause imposing taxation on the Royal fortune. It could be done cleanly in that way, and if it were I should stop complaining. I should say that we have now got the matter right, and we can have a new Civil List Committee. We can sit down and plan the thing sensibly.
I say to the hon. Member for Chelmsford that I am not one of those who, in his own words, are puritanical or mean-spirited. I do not think that he can accuse me of being puritanical by nature. I, too, think that it is a mistake to try to have a monarchy on the cheap. It is a good thing to have a good show. If one is going to do it at all, do it well, do it lavishly. But doing a thing lavishly does not mean doing a thing with the essential information refused. The right 507 way to be lavish is to get to know the facts, and then one can afford to be lavish. The right way to put out the facts is to put them all together in one vote so that we can see what the total cost is and have the cost reviewed annually like everything else.
If there were an annual review, I suspect that it would be rarely used, but it is a good thing to have a right and then not always use it. As long as there is this deliberate mystification and concealment as part of the Government's policy some of us will continue to complain.
This is the last time that any Government will make this mistake. The Government know that it has sadly damaged the Monarchy. They know that it has divided the House gratuitously and unnecessarily. They know that it was highly hypocritical, and now they know that public opinion, as so often, is more adult and more sophisticated than the Tory Cabinet.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)
The right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) has raised again today what he raised before, namely, the question of the private fortune of the Queen. It clearly has nothing to do with the Civil List. Many rich people who have private fortunes manage to escape paying tax. The Monarchy is not unique in that respect. Rich people avoid paying tax by setting up trusts. The money is passed to someone else, and tax is not paid on it. The last occasion on which we discussed this matter I said that it was an issue for the Queen, and I made certain suggestions, which I do not intend to repeat now.
I found it a little odd listening to the right hon. Gentleman. At the beginning of a speech he gave the impression that the British people were against the Monarchy.
§ Mr. Lewis
If the right hon. Gentleman reads the beginning of his speech he will see that he was unenthusiastic about the institution of the Monarchy as such. At the end of his speech he came back to the position which he says he has always held. He said that he was a 508 monarchist, and he believed that if one does things one should do them well.
If the Opposition believe that the Monarchy should do things well, why is it that the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. John D. Grant) has tabled an Amendment to halve the amount? The Civil List Committee was representative of both sides of the House. It was representative of the Front Benches as well as the back benches. The Committee arrived at a figure. That figure was accepted on Second Reading, but now we have before us a suggestion that the amount should be halved. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) when he says that this suggestion is ridiculous.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
The figure suggested in the Committee's Report was not accepted by this side of the House. We voted on a specific Amendment which would have altered the whole basis of payment.
§ Mr. Lewis
The hon. Gentleman voted for an Amendment which, in our view, would have increased the cost, as it would have created a new Department of State. It would have bureaucratised the Monarchy. It would have nationalised the Monarchy, if one likes to put it that way, and it is our experience that when something is nationalised, costs increase.
This is not a payment to the Royal Family as such. It is a payment for services provided. It is largely a payment for wages and salaries, and hon. Gentlemen opposite know that perfectly well. This is the first time for many years that the payment for wages and salaries has been increased, and during that period everyone else in the country has received large increases. Hon. Gentlemen opposite know that during the last few days there has been criticism of the increases that we are giving ourselves in this House. The large increase that we are to receive arises from the fact that we have not given ourselves an increase in salary for many years. We are now giving ourselves a rise to make up for what we have not had before, and the criticism of the increase is therefore unfair.
The same judgment must be applied to the money being provided for the 509 Queen. This is an increase for the payment of wages and salaries that are necessary to keep up the institution of the monarchy. This increase is to catch up with the increases in costs over many years. This is a catching-up operation.
If hon. Members criticise what we are doing here, they should be equally critical of what we are doing about our own salaries—
Mr. Eric S. Heller (Liverpool, Walton)
There is no comparison.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Lewis
Of course there is. There is a comparison simply because the increase is larger because it is a catching-up operation. I imagine that all hon. Members expect that we will not get another increase for a number of years. Nor will the Queen. This is to anticipate increases within the service of the Royal Family itself. The hon. Member will know that those who are employed in the Royal Family would expect a rise next year and the year after that—
§ Mr. Lewis
This sum of money is in anticipation of the kind of rises which should have been paid to the servants of the Royal Family in anticipation of what they would expect in the years to come. Any good trade unionist should accept that the servants employed by the Royal Household should come under the same rules as people working in industry.
This is a normal operation, because it is providing money which is long overdue, which, as the right hon. Member for Coventry East said, is necessary for a Royal Household which will do its job, in his word, "lavishly", in mine, "adequately". The British people, so far as they support the Monarchy, want the job done adequately, if not lavishly, and I believe they support the proposal that we should provide the money to do it.
§ The Chancellor of The Exchequer (Mr. Anthony Barber)
I join the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. John D. Grant) in saying a word about the hon. 510 Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton). Whatever those of us on the Select Committee may have thought about his views, which he expressed very strongly there, many times—although, more often than not, when we voted he found himself more or less isolated—he has consistently put forward these views and it is unfortunate that he is not well enough to take part in this debate.
Although I thought that he expressed himself with a certain immoderation which I did not think was justified, the principles which he consistently advocated he held sincerely. Therefore, although I would not append my name to everything which was in the telegram that the hon. Gentleman said, I would want to send a message from everyone on both sides of the House wishing him a speedy return.
The hon. Member for Islington, East, said that he thought that the House of Commons had not been properly treated. Speaking with some feeling as the person elected Chairman of the Select Committee, which sat a considerable number of times, I would say that no one would deny—although they may be critical of some of the answers given to individuals or some of the information which they considered should have been given—that no Select Committee on the Civil List in history has conducted as thorough an investigation as we did on this issue. So the whole House will agree that there was a significant advance.
We took far more evidence than has ever been taken before. The appendices to the report conclusively support that observation. Also, as the House knows, for the first time we published virtually the whole of the evidence put before us. I agree of course—it would be stupid to pretend otherwise—that there is room for considerable argument about what the amount in Clause 1 should be. There is also room for argument about certain factors—such as the right hon. Member's reference to the private resources of the Queen—and about the extent to which, if at all, these factors are relevant.
We have been over this ground a number of times. Although I took part in the debate on the report, I was in Washington at the time of the Second Reading, but I have read it and I recognise that this is an issue. But my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. 511 St. John-Stevas) is right to say that the basic question which we have to decide is whether we want to maintain the operation of the Monarchy at its present level, whether we want a "lavish" monarchy, as the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) seemed to think was desirable, or something which operates adequately and effectively, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) said.
There is no doubt that the work of the Royal Family—in this Clause, we are considering the Queen's Household—has increased considerably over the years since 1952, the last occasion that we had a Civil List Bill. Of course I respect the views of the right hon. Member for Coventry, East, but I cannot see—on the assumption that he is sincere in what he has said this afternoon—why he has to tell the House that there is deliberate mystification, that the Government have deliberately set out to mystify the British public, because a considerable amount of the expenditure incurred in connection with the activities of Royalty is on Votes.
The right hon. Member knows, as I do, that, in the document which was circulated with the report, the details of what has been carried on Votes are set out. No one is trying to conceal this. It was one of the major matters which the Select Committee considered. Unfortunately, we in the Committee did not have the benefit of the right hon. Gentleman's advice, but it was one of the aspects which we considered with great care and at length. It is there in the document and the figures are set out there.
The object of this Amendment and the related ones is to reduce the Civil List provision from £980,000 to £400,000 and to convert it into a new Vote on Royal Family expenditure. The hon. Member for Fife, West, in whose name these Amendments stand, made clear to the Select Committee—it is all there for everyone to read—what his views were. The salaries of the Household now total about £500.000 a year. What the hon. Member wanted to do—this was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman as well—was to transfer to the Treasury Vote the responsibility for these salaries, just 512 as other transfers had been made to departmental Votes from time to time during the reign. The implication of such a transfer, as the right hon. Gentle-made clear, is that the Treasury and the Civil Service Department would take over complete control of the appointment and the pay and so on of all the Household staff.
First—I need not dwell on this, because it is obvious to those who were either on the Select Committee or have read its report—this is completely inconsistent with the proposals of the Committee. We specifically considered not only the possibility of doing what the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) wanted us to do—a suggestion which he put forward with cogency in the debate—but also the desirability of transferring to Votes further expenditure, without necessarily going as far as the right hon. Member for Sowerby had suggested.
To do it in that way would be what I can only describe as a backdoor method of turning the Royal Household into a Government Department—compared with the straightforward. open and consistent proposals of the right hon. Member for Sowerby, who explained clearly what he wanted to do and how he wanted to achieve a Department of the Crown.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford that if this group of Amendments were accepted on the basis on which it would have been put forward by the hon. Member for Fife. West and as interpreted by the right hon. Member for Coventry. East, who talked of something in the nature of a Department of the Crown, there would be no saving. All the evidence was to the effect that it would result in an increase in cost.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford said that the figure of £400.000 put forward in the Amendment was arbitrary. I do not blame the hon. Member for Islington. East for introducing this figure. He has obviously suggested a lower one to provide an opportunity for arguing the principle that is involved.
In view of what has been said on this subject by hon. Gentlemen opposite, perhaps I should comment on the figure of £980,000. The annual payment of 513 £980,000 which the Select Committee recommended and which is embodied in Clause 1 is estimated to be sufficient for a period of some years.
The actual expenditure to be covered in this calendar year, 1972, is estimated at £810,000. That is for the salaries and expenses of the Royal Household plus a fixed sum—all this is in the report—of £10,200 for Royal bounty, arms and special services, leaving a margin of about £160,000. This margin, or whatever the margin may be from year to year, will be held by the Royal Trustees under Clause 1(4) together with any surplus out of the £60,000 which is provided under Clause 3 in respect of payments to other members of the Royal Family.
For how long this margin will suffice to meet rising costs depends entirely on future rates of inflation. No explicit assumption was made by the Select Committee in reaching this figure, but anybody can work it out. As I have people to work it out for me, it might be as well if I were to give the House the benefit of the advice I have received. Mathematically it can be shown that the figure of £980,000 will probably suffice for the whole of the first 10-year period if inflation keeps below an annual rate of 10 per cent. over this period.
§ Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Did not the right hon. Gentleman seek to establish the personal fortune and income of the Queen in making this estimate of the amount of money that is and will be required? Did he at any time seek any indication of the size of this fortune and income in arriving at this figure?
§ Mr. Barber
I certainly did not seek any specific information about the size of the Queen's fortune. As a result of certain questions which were put to Lord Cobbold, he returned to the Committee. In other words, as a result of certain private conversations that I had with one right hon. Gentleman opposite, Lord Cobbold returned and gave further information, though I certainly do not intend to go in to those conversations or to elaborate on them.
As for the private resources of the Queen, we have discussed this matter at some length. Questions have been asked 514 and I have noted carefully what was said on Second Reading, when these questions were answered by the Financial Secretary. I have made my views clear on this subject. I appreciate that they differ from those of some hon. Gentlement opposite. I have said that I respect their views. This is a case where we must beg to differ. I have read the OFFICIAL REPORT of what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said on Second Reading.
I can only add that I believe, as the majority of the Select Committee believed, that in all the circumstances, taking into account the evidence, for the calendar year 1972 the figure of £810,000 should be increased to £980,000 to take account of the possibility of increased prices in the coming period.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Sheldon
I want to be sure that I understood the right hon. Gentleman correctly. Am I correct in summarising his remarks as meaning that certain conversations were held with Lord Cobbold about the nature of the Queen's fortune and income and that those conversations were obviously of a private nature?
§ Mr. Barber
I thought I had made the position clear. I had a private conversation—in fact, I had private conversations with several Members of the Select Committee—and as a result of those conversations, which I am not prepared to disclose, I approached Lord Cobbold, who, as a result of that approach, gave further evidence to the Committee, and that evidence is there to be read.
Perhaps I should add that I have just been informed that I made an error a short while ago when I used the figure of 10 per cent. in relation to the degree of inflation over the 10-year period. The figure should have been 5 per cent.
§ Mr. Barber
Hon. Members should note the conclusion of the Select Committee in paragraph 21:Turning now to provision for the Civil List, Your Committee first considered possible means of reducing the total Civil List requirement, both by way of further economies in expenditure by the Royal Household, and by the transfer of appropriate items of expenditure to departmental Votes. Your Committee were satisfied that on the basis of the evidence they received there was little further scope for 515 economies in the Royal Household. They accept the view both of those Members of the Household who gave evidence and of the Civil Service Union that it would not be right in today's circumstances to expect Palace employees to be paid at a lower level than would be appropriate for corresponding work elsewhere. And they consider that savings should not be achieved by substantially reducing the scale or style of Royal occasions and appearances.I believe that there is common ground on that and that, if one is to ensure that that is so, it is necessary to provide sums of the order we have been discussing and which appear in Clause 1.
§ Mr. Sheldon
The right hon. Gentleman has made rather confused what I thought was becoming clear. I was interested to know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself knew the details of the personal fortune of the Queen and her income before deciding the sums of money that should be voted by this House. I understood that his reticence was not about the need to discover for himself what the personal fortune of the Queen might be, and which must be a highly relevant consideration in this matter, but about letting the House and the country know the details which he had discovered.
Does the right hon. Gentleman have this information and did he use it to decide, on his own initiative, how much money should be given to the Queen? I thought from his first reply to this question that he said "Yes", and that there had been certain private conversations from which he had learnt this information, information on which he could justify, to himself if not to the Committee, that these sums are about right.
§ Mr. Barber
Let me make the position crystal clear. I was approached by certain members of the Select Committee. I had private conversations with them. As a result of those conversations I approached Lord Cobbold. As a result of that, in part at any rate, when he returned to the Committee he gave further evidence. That evidence is on the record. The hon. Gentleman has asked me a question three times, and he might listen to the reply. I am not surprised that he did not understand the answer before. Everyone on the Select Committee assumed this, otherwise they would have asked me about it. I certainly have 516 no more knowledge of the private resources of the Queen than appears in the document and was given to the Select Committee. Therefore, for these reasons the majority of the Select Committee came to the conclusion that the figure of £980,000 was the right amount. For these reasons, I ask the Committee to reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)
There is an important point I should like right hon. Gentlemen to clarify. It has become clear that a large portion of hon. Gentlemen, mostly on this side of the Committee, are dissatisfied that there has been no disclosure as to the private fortune. It has been suggested, I think rightly, that this is the Government's fault. If the Chancellor has no information as to the nature and extent of the private fortune—which he has made clear—was it not his duty to obtain such information? If the Government had advised the Queen that such a disclosure should be made, would not that disclosure have been made?
§ Mr. Barber
I am not prepared to go further than to say that questions on this particular subject were put to Lord Cobbold by a number of members of the Committee, and he gave the reasons. They are on the record. I have no more knowledge than that.
In the light of all the evidence given on this subject, and taking the whole situation into account, the majority of the Committee came to the conclusion that £980,000 was the right amount. I believe that it is, and that is the issue.
§ Mr. Joel Barnett
Would the right hon. Gentleman say whether he thought it necessary to ask Lord Cobbold whether it would be right and proper for the Committee to have this information, or whether he felt—not what he thought that the Queen thought about it—that it was not necessary?
§ Mr. Barber
I can only say that I am not prepared to disclose, and this House would not expect me to disclose, private conversations with either right hon. and hon. Gentlemen or with Lord Cobbold. I did what I considered to be best in the interests of the Committee. If the hon. Gentleman wants my personal opinion, the information we received from Lord Cobbold was perfectly adequate for us to reach this conclusion.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
As a Member who was not on the Select Committee but who remembers in some detail the discussion that took place when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor first introduced this subject before the Committee was set up, when he, as the responsible Minister, moved the Motion, I would point out that there was a slight disagreement between the right hon. Gentleman and Mr. Speaker at that time on the interpretation of the terms of reference of the Select Committee. The Chancellor had pointed out to the House on this very early occasion, before there were any private discussions with Privy Councillors on the Committee, as no Committee had yet been set up, that the private income of the Sovereign in his, the Chancellor's, judgment was irrelevant to the work of the Committee. One of my right hon. Friends thereupon questioned his interpretation of this particular position. Soon after that, Mr. Speaker intervened. I hope that the Chancellor will be able to give us the reply on what led him to produce his judgment before the Committee had been set up and before any discussions had taken place. This has nothing to do with any private talks that he may have had with right hon. Gentlemen on this side of Committee.
Mr. Speaker intervened to say categorically that it was up to the Committee to decide what information it would ask for; by implication, Mr. Speaker said that it was not up to the right hon. Gentleman to say what information the Committee would ask for as a Select Committee of the House and what the Committee would do in interpreting its terms of reference. The Chancellor has not yet told the House, and all hon. Members who have not been on Select Committee must ask him, therefore, to tell us categorically—there is considerable public interest in this matter—whether he, the Chancellor interpreted the views of the Members of the Select Committee, whether a majority or a minority, as to the Select Committee's terms of reference.
Did he make himself the interpreter of these views and, therefore, make an approach to the Sovereign asking that the details of the private income should be disclosed, or did he adhere to his obviously preconceived opinion, which he had expressed when he first moved 518 the Motion at that Box, that he thought that it was irrelevant? We have not heard a categorical reply today. We have heard much about private discussions with right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the Committee, but that is not very important in this debate.
The private discussions that led him to have private consultations the content of which he is not prepared to disclose are unimportant. As we are dealing with Supply, with appropriation, it is his duty to proceed in the normal manner and tell the House of the approaches he made to the Sovereign. May we therefore have the reply, not about private conversations with right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the Committee but on the request having being made in the Select Committee, after Mr. Speaker having said from the Chair that it is for the Committee to decide what is relevant and what is irrelevant and not for the Chancellor to make that decision for the Committee?
Did the Chancellor then make himself the spokesman of those Members of the Select Committee who thought that this information was relevant, and did he, therefore, make an approach to the Palace to obtain the information for the Select Committee?
§ Mr. Barber
As far as I recollect, on the first occasion when I brought this matter to the attention of the House, I made some observations about the matter of the Queen's private resources because I was asked a question about it, and therefore, I thought it only courteous at the time to give my immediate view. But we recognised full well that this was a matter for the Select Committee. If the hon. Gentleman would ask any member of that Select Committee I think that he would get the answer that the action which I took as Chairman of that Select Committee, on any occasion and in the whole course of our proceedings, was the reasonable sort of action which a Chairman should take. Certainly there was no criticism by any member of the Select Committee that I behaved improperly or did not do all that I could to try to achieve the best possible result.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I wish merely to make the briefest intervention on this important though irrelevant point of the Queen's private fortune. It is irrelevant 519 not only factually to our discussions, although there is a difference of opinion on that but also irrelevant constitutionally. The right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) censured the Government for the advice which he presumed had been tendered to the Queen by the Chancellor, namely, not to give information about her private fortune. This was the point raised by the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin). The Chancellor of the Exchequer would have deserved censure had he sought to advise the Queen ministersially on that matter in any way, because there is a responsibility to give advice to the Sovereign only where there is a ministerial responsibility. On the question of the private fortune, there is no ministerial responsibility. Therefore, it would have been totally inappropriate for the Chancellor to advise Her Majesty on that point.
§ Mr. Crossman
To put the record straight, I put this point to the right hon. Gentleman as a statement, although I should prefer it to be regarded as a question. I thought that it was unfair to the Queen to say that she had refused the information. I preferred to make the statement of fact that the Queen was acting here on the Chancellor's advice. It would be valuable if the Chancellor would confirm my assessment.
I greatly respect the Chancellor for what he has been doing and how he behaved in the Select Committee. I am sure that he gave his advice honestly. He having said that his personal view that it was irrelevant, I take it that he made that view clear to the Monarch when she asked his advice as to whether she should give the information.
§ Mr. Barber
It is extraordinary that the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) should have made any assumption. I was not asked for any advice on this matter.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Joel Barnett
I, like other hon. Members, greatly regret the absence through ill-health of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton).
It was suggested at the outset by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. 520 John-Stevas) and repeated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Amendment is arbitrary. Everything said by the Chancellor today has emphasised just how arbitrary is the sum of £980,000. The right hon. Gentleman clarified the arbitrariness of the figure by telling us that it included a sum of £160,000 which, first—by a slip of the tongue, I assume—was supposed to cover 10 years' inflation at 10 per cent. Then this was adjusted later to 5 per cent.
One wonders what the Chancellor's views are about inflation. After the last 12 months one can perhaps understand his thinking in terms of 10 per cent. Clearly, when a sum of £980,000 includes a sum of £160,000 a year for possible inflation at the rate of 5 per cent., and when during the last 12 months inflation has run at 10 per cent., one is bound to ask, even if one ignores the whole question of the taxation of private income, just how realistic the figure of £980,000 is.
There is no question of our being puritanical or mean spirited, as the hon. Member for Chelmsford has charged. My right hon. and hon. Friends who have opposed the figure all want to see the Monarchy run at a proper and adequate level. Indeed, many want to see it run at a lavish level.
The hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) does not know, nor does any other hon. Member, whether this figure is adequate, lavish or anything else. They have said that the question of the Monarch's private resources is irrelevant. The hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford said that other rich people are able not to pay taxes. Is it being suggested that the fact that some rich people are able legally to avoid taxation by setting up trusts, and so on, is a fair comparison with the fact that the whole of the Queen's income and capital is legally made free of tax by the Government of the day?
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis
It is at least better to make that point than simply to say that the Queen is unique in this respect. Until this matter came up recently, the Labour Party had never suggested that there was any belief on its part that action should be taken about the Queen's private fortune. We have heard about this only in the last week or so.
§ Mr. Barnett
I made this point constantly in Committee, as the Chancellor knows. It is surely relevant to know. when voting a figure for expenses and to meet staff wages, whether at the end of this period, whether it be 10 years or 20 years, and depending upon the level of inflation, the Queen's capital has increased or decreased because of the figure which we have voted and because the rest of her resources are free of any kind of taxation.
I do not dispute that the Chancellor played a perfectly fair rôle as Chairman of the Select Committee. However, neither the Chancellor nor the hon. Member for Chelmsford does the Monarch any service. The Chancellor did not think it right to advise the Monarch that she would be doing herself a service by disclosing details of her private resources or by agreeing to pay taxes on her income.
It is no use the hon. Member for Chelmsford saying that it is not the direct responsibility of the Chancellor so to advise the Queen. The Chancellor certainly has direct responsibility. For example, he could introduce a Clause in the Finance Bill to ensure that the whole of the Monarch's resources are made subject to taxation. Even if only in the negative sense, the Chancellor's neglect to advise the Queen to disclose her private resources does the Queen and the Monarchy a disservice.
Hon. Members who want to see the Monarchy adequately, indeed lavishly, do not know whether that is the case. They do not know whether even after this £980,000 is voted it will be necessary for the Queen to provide from her private resources to supplement her own expenditure and that of other members of the Royal Family. Therefore, hon. Members are voting for a figure which is not only arbitrary but which allows, as far as can be judged, in view of the immunity from taxation, the Queen's private capital to grow at a substantial rate. If this is not so, the Chancellor is in duty bound to say so. This figure is as arbitrary as any other. The Committee is not able to know whether the figure is justifiable.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I wish to make once more the briefest of interventions on the point raised by the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Joel Barnett), who is certainly a distinguished financier but who is not an equal authority on constitutional matters. He gave an illustration as evidence that the Chancellor was constitutionally responsible for advising on the Queen's private fortune—
§ Mr. Joel Barnett
The hon. Gentleman is being a little pedantic, to put is mildly. I am not concerned with the niceties of constitutional propriety. I said that the Chancellor does the Monarchy a disservice by not advising it to disclose the information or to pay tax.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
That is another point. We are all aware of that point, but there are some of us who think that the constitution is important. This matter is one, not of pedantry, but of great importance as to where the competence of the House of Commons ends and that of the Monarchy begins.
The hon. Gentleman gave as proof of existing Ministerial responsibility the fact that the Chancellor could introduce legislation, and have it approved by Parliament, to subject the Queen's private fortune to the control of the House of Commons. That is a fallacious point. It is certainly a Ministerial responsibility. That would create a new position. It would not affect the existing position.
The confusion which exists in the hon. Gentleman's mind is that he thinks that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor is the royal merchant banker or the royal stockbroker. My right hon. Friend is not. These are matters for which there is no Ministerial responsibility; they are purely within the competence of the Monarch.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. John D. Grant
There is a feeling on this side of the Committee that we should divide on the Question. It is not that we seek to deny an annual payment to the Queen but simply that we cannot accept the figure of £980,000.
§ Question put, That the Clause stand part of the Bill:
§ Clause I ordered to stand part of the Bill.