HL Deb 30 June 1971 vol 321 cc317-20

2.37 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will state for each of the last 20 years the annual income derived from Crown Lands and made over to the Exchequer and how much the total of these amounts exceeds the total sum voted by Parliament to Her Majesty the Queen over the same period.]


My Lords, the income derived from Crown lands and made over to the Consolidated Fund in the nineteen complete financial years since the Accession of Her Majesty The Queen in 1952 totals £45,390,000. In the same period this amount exceeded the amounts issued to Her Majesty The Queen in respect of the Civil List under the provisions of Section 2 of the Civil List Act 1952 by £38,491,397. In addition, Schedule "A" Tax amounting to £7,332,070 was paid to the Inland Revenue by the Crown Estate Commission during the period.

With permission, I will circulate the annual figures with the OFFICIAL REPORT.

The following are the figures referred to:

Year ending March 31st Crown Lands revenue paid to Consolidated Fund £ Schedule "A" tax paid to Inland Revenue £ Payments issued in respect of the Civil List £
1953 980,000 610,688 405,565
1954 1,130,000 595,602 387,846
1955 1,170,000 594,564 391,061
1956 1,270,000 577,944 392,596
1957 1,270,000 572,064 388,715
1958 1,440,000 581,454 383,789
1959 1,530,000 594,694 381,086
1960 1,790,000 593,105 379,275
1961 2,020,000 580,954 372,354
1962 2,190,000 609,002 337,659
1963 2,380,000 604,761 365,204
1964 2,470,000 646,214 324,186
1965 3,200,000 171,024 314,640
1966 3,525,000 342,950
1967 3,600,000 285,154
1968 3,725,000 307,750
1969 4,050,000 328,218
1970 3,800,000 296,555
1971 3,850,000 514,000
45,390,000 7,332,070 6,898,603

My Lords, from that reply is it not clear that, apart from the great and invaluable service which Her Majesty The Queen and other Members of the Royal Family give to the nation, the taxpayers have since 1953 received some £38 million more in revenue than has been granted back? Secondly, can the noble Lord say what proportion of the income from the Duchy of Cornwall is given back to the taxpayers? And lastly, I wonder if the noble Lord would see whether the Trustees of the Crown Estate have sufficiently wide powers to invest the moneys as they believe will best benefit both the Estate and taxpayers.


My Lords, I am sure the whole House will echo my noble friend's words in paying tribute to the way in which Her Majesty shoulders her onerous burdens. I have given him the figures which show how much the taxpayer benefits from the payments derived from Crown lands. On the second point about which he asked me, I may say that the Duke of Cornwall, since he became 21 on November 13, 1969, has voluntarily surrendered half of the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall to the Consolidated Fund. My noble friend's third point was about the powers of the Crown Estate Commissioners. These are contained in the Crown Estate Act 1961, which was a consolidating Act. I understand that the powers are fairly wide and indeed are more or less the powers of the absolute owner, subject only to certain restrictions for the protection of the reversionary interests of the Heir Apparent but I will certainly look into this matter.


My Lords, would not the noble Lord agree that the title "Crown Lands" is now something of a misnomer, and that these are really the lands of the people, held in trust by the Crown for the benefit of the people from time immemorial? Would he not agree that it is entirely wrong to relate this particular sum of money, whatever it may be at any one time, to the remuneration given to the Queen for carrying out her duties?


My Lords, I do not think that really accords with the facts. On the Accession of George III in 1760 the land revenues of the Crown in England and Wales were surrendered to Parliament by the King. At the commencement of each reign since then, each succeeding Sovereign has made a similar surrender, effective only for the duration of the particular reign.


My Lords, from the figures that he has given, would my noble friend tell us what the income from the Crown lands was nineteen years ago and what it is to-day?


My Lords, in 1953 it was £980,000, and in 1971 it was £3,850,000.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that inflation is so rapid now that the Queen is entitled to an increase to meet the increased cost of living since we fixed the figure for her just after she became Queen? Is he further aware that an increase to the Queen is justified when one compares like with like, and what the sum fixed would buy to-day?


My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord appreciated from the popularity of what he said that he is saying something that many of us would echo. As he knows, there is a Select Committee in the other place which is considering this matter.