HC Deb 13 December 1993 vol 234 c671
5. Mr. Flynn

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what is the current total of public money paid to support and maintain royal palaces.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Iain Sproat)

The estimated cost in the current financial year for the occupied and historic royal palaces is £28.4 million.

Mr. Flynn

Has the Minister seen the estimate that suggests that if the royal palaces were put to full commercial use they could yield an income of £100 million a year? In these hard times of cuts in the meagre incomes of pensioners, the sick, the unemployed and the homeless, why is it necessary to loot the public purse of that huge sum of money in order to keep five palaces going to ensure that one single family can live in extravagant luxury?

Mr. Sproat

I disagree with just about everything that the hon. Gentleman has implied. I have not seen the story to which he referred, but, as for improving the contribution to the upkeep of the palaces, I can tell him that as a result of the opening of Buckingham palace earlier this year and the policy of charging for entrance to Windsor, about 70 per cent. of the money needed for Windsor will be generated.

Mr. Jessel

As £28 million works out at about 50p per head of population per year is not that extremely good value for upholding that vital part of Britain's heritage? The royal family and our traditions draw a large number of foreign visitors to our country and their spending on hotels, restaurants, internal travel and shops generates employment and a tax return to the Government. That represents very good value indeed.

Mr. Sproat

My hon. Friend is, as always, wise, lucid and persuasive.

Mr. Mackinlay

Is not it time in a modern democracy for one particular palace or home to be provided for the Head of State, the cost of which could be met by the public purse, while the rest of the palaces are either handed over to other public agencies to promote tourism or made the sole financial responsibility of the wider royal family, who should not be subsidised by the ordinary taxpayer?

Mr. Sproat

No, I do not agree with that.