Peter Tatchell / Human Rights Activist News Wire
Royal Accounts are all spin
More from Peter Tatchell / Human Rights Activist News Wire
The Queen's lack of financial transparency fuels speculation that she
is avoiding tax on a massive scale
By Peter Tatchell
The Guardian – Comment Is Free – 29 June 2007
The Queen's spin doctors were working overtime this week to put a
"value for money" gloss on the royal finances. When Elizabeth II's
accounts for 2005-2006 were revealed yesterday, her courtiers proudly
boasted that the Royal Family costs the public a mere £37.4 million a
year or 62p per person – a bargain they claimed. What nonsense. This
is PR manipulation worthy of the dark manoeuvrings of Tony Blair's
sidekick Alistair Campbell.
The Palace is guilty of misleading the public. Even if it was true
that the Monarchy costs only £37 million a year, this is 20 times the
cost of the elected Irish President and nearly four times the cost of
the President of Germany. It is not good value for money at all.
The real cost of the Monarchy is more like £150 million a year, when
you factor in security costs, grants, unpaid tax and the cost to local
councils of royal visits. The expenditure on royal security alone was
reported by The Times in 2004 to amount to nearly £100 million
If we had a low-cost, purely ceremonial President like the Irish, the
surplus money could be spent on more worthwhile causes, like funding
treatments for NHS patients who are currently being denied vital drugs
for arthritis and breast cancer because of budget deficits and
cost-cutting. Alternatively, it could fund thousands more nurses,
doctors, teachers and police officers.
The Queen's PR people want us to believe that we have a frugal
monarchy – that the Queen is making great economies. Pull the other
one. Take the example of the Royal Train. The Queen used it for 11
official journeys, at a cost of £700,000. This included one trip to
Brighton, which left the taxpayer with a bill of £19,271 for a 100
mile round trip. Pure extravagance.
They can spin all they like, but yesterday's royal accounts are a
sham. Sadly, much of the media and most politicians are too
deferential and awed by the "majesty of monarchy" to challenge the way
this super-rich family milk the public and then con us into believing
that they are transparent and good value.
Despite our supposed democracy, proper public scrutiny of the royal
finances is almost impossible. Even MPs are routinely frustrated in
their attempts to get answers. Parliamentary Questions are often
disallowed. Persistent questioning over many months is often
necessary, and even then lots of perfectly reasonable questions are
deemed unacceptable and off-limits. This is an outrageous abuse of
royal privilege by palace courtiers and their flunkeys in government
and the civil service. If you don't believe me, watch my Talking With
TV interview with the Labour MP Andrew MacKinlay, where, among other
things, he cites the obstruction he has faced in attempting to get
answers about the true extent of royal income, property and tax.
These are the facts: we, the British people, are denied the right to
know the Queen's income and the amount of tax she pays. In this
modern, democratic era it is, frankly, quite intolerable for the
Monarch to exempt herself from the disclosures expected of other
Her Majesty is one of the richest people in the world, yet there is no
evidence that she pays tax on all her income, or that she pays tax at
the same rate as the rest of us. She says she pays tax. I believe her.
But how much tax on what income is a complete mystery. Like an
absolute feudal monarch, she refuses to be honest and open with the
people. Her lack of transparency fuels speculation that she is
avoiding tax on a massive scale.
There are serious allegations that Prince Charles avoids paying around
£500,000 a year in corporation tax and capital gains tax on his Duchy
estate. The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, chaired by
Conservative ex-Minister Edward Leigh, last year called on the Prince
of Wales to make a full and honest disclosure of all his finances,
amid accusations that he has, over the years, avoided paying millions
of pounds in tax. When he was Chancellor, Gordon Brown defended
exempting the Prince and the Queen from capital gains and corporation
Republic www.republic.org.uk , The campaign for an elected Head of
State, is calling for greater openness and accountability with regard
to the royal finances.
Graham Smith, Republic's campaign manager, is highly critical of the
way the Royal Household mischievously portrays itself as being net
contributor to the exchequer. He cites Professor Phillip Hall:
"It is claimed by the Queen that the monarchy costs this country
nothing because she gives the revenue from the Crown Estate to the
nation, and therefore is subsidising the Royal Family…Because it is
described as the Queen 'surrendering' the revenue from the Crown
Estate in return for the Civil List allocation, it is mistakenly
assumed that this 'surrendering' is a personal financial sacrifice on
her part for the good of the nation. And this fantasy is
enthusiastically perpetuated by monarchists. The truth is rather
"The Crown Estate and its revenue have never been the private property
of the Queen, or any of her predecessors. The Crown Estate is
officially described as 'hereditary possessions of the Sovereign', not
the personal possessions of the individual acting as Sovereign.
"She cannot give us what she has never owned. Her role is simply one
of an individual - Elizabeth Windsor - acting in her constitutional
role - the Sovereign - performing her constitutional duty and
overseeing the transfer to the government of the income from a totally
separate legal entity - the Crown. The Queen incurs absolutely no
financial loss in this transfer process.
"The Crown's legal status is that of a corporation sole, an
independent legal entity with the right to hold assets. To suggest
that Elizabeth Windsor personally 'owns' and 'gives' the assets and
revenues of this incorporated body is as ludicrous as suggesting that
the Chairman of British Airways personally 'owns' and 'gives' the
assets and tax revenues of the incorporated body he represents.
"If the monarchy were to disappear tomorrow, the Crown Estate would
continue to do what it has always done for nearly one thousand years -
provide income for the administration of this country," he concluded.
I rest my case. The limited disclosure and large-scale massaging of
the royal finances is a national disgrace. It brings the Royal Family
into disrepute and reinforces the case for a democratically elected
and fully accountable head of state.
Talking With Tatchell
Peter Tatchell is the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford East
http://www.greenoxford.com/peter and http://www.petertatchell.net