HC Deb 24 January 1994 vol 236 cc16-7
33. Mr. Gordon Prentice

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster for the latest year for which figures are available, what is the number of people who have died intestate and whose estates have transferred to the Duchy of Lancaster.

Mr. Waldegrave

There were 421 cases reported to the Duchy solicitor during the year ending 1992.

After inquiries had failed to reveal next of kin and after ex-gratia payments had been made, the assets of 328 estates were vested in the Crown in the right of the Duchy.

Mr. Prentice

I thank the Minister for that reply and for his personal intervention, which allowed a grant to be made to the Lancashire free legal advice centre which allowed it to buy updates for its law library. Is not it the case that, in this day and age, it is quite anomalous for the estates of people who die intestate in the county palatine and in the Duchy of Cornwall to be treated so differently from those of people who die intestate elsewhere in the country, where the money goes to the Exchequer? Is not it about time that we got rid of that throwback to medieval times?

Mr. Waldegrave

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. It is indeed an anomaly, but it is a worthwhile anomaly from which the people of Lancashire benefit. If the hon. Gentleman had been addressing his requests for help to the worthy charity of my right hon. Friends in Her Majesty's Treasury, doubtless, he would have got his money, but perhaps he would not. Hon. Members for Lancashire would do well to hang on to that anomalous piece of history. It does good for the people of Lancashire.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Does it not astonish my right hon. Friend that an hon. Member purporting to represent Lancashire should be so unpatriotic about matters affecting that county's citizens? Is my right hon. Friend aware that the citizens of the county town of Lancaster have done extremely well out of the fund? The kids' club, the pre-school play group, the disablement centre and many others have benefited from that unique charity—and long may it survive.

Mr. Waldegrave

On this occasion, my hon. Friend speaks with a more authentic voice of Lancashire than does the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice).