Sovereign Grant Bill

I have a series of concerns with the Bill. First, it creates an artificial link between the profits from an estate given up by the royal family in 1760 and an amount required to carry their official duties in the present day. My major concern is with the escalator process that is put in place, whereby the amount that is received each year will be the same as or greater than that of the previous financial year, either through the floor introduced in the Bill or because 15% of the Crown Estate’s profits is greater than the floor. I am disappointed that the Opposition amendment on that was defeated in Committee.

There are curious oddities in the Bill. Why is there a need to round up the Crown Estate’s profit to the nearest £100,000? Why round it upwards and not downwards? Why round it up at all? The profit of the Crown Estate is a red herring. There is no link between the successful organisation of the estate’s affairs and the amount received by the royal family. This is not a business arrangement. I recognise that there are arguments that the royal family should receive a lump sum and be able to transfer funds for better use. I also recognise the argument that the money provided is given for a specific purpose. However, if it is not being used for that purpose, on what grounds is that amount of funding being given?

As many Members have said, there should be a regular needs-based analysis of the royal family’s expenditure, with grants provided accordingly. Having said that, I like the idea of a reserve fund for money that is not used. This sounds like the end-of-year flexibility that the Welsh Government set up under Plaid Cymru a few years ago, only for the Treasury to steal back

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£400 million earlier in the year. I look forward to the day when the Treasury follows the same pursuit in taking back money allocated to the royal family.

The Crown Estate, which is a key part of the Bill, is owned by the state and administrated by commissioners. It owns large areas of land in Wales and claims the seabed and foreshore as part of its urban, rural and maritime portfolios. Yet last week’s annual report fails to provide a nation-by-nation or regional breakdown of the investments and profits of the Crown Estate. Figures for Scotland are provided on the website, but apparently no comparable figures for Wales are published. In the interests of transparency, we would like to see those figures published. In the interests of Wales, we would like to see responsibility for the Crown Estate in Wales transferred to the Welsh Government. This is our land and our seabed, and it should be used for investments that benefit the people of Wales.

Mel Stride: I feel that I must return to the status of the Crown Estate. Does not the hon. Gentleman accept that it is effectively owned by the institution of the monarchy and not by the state at all?

Jonathan Edwards: I do not agree. My belief is that the Crown Estate in Wales should now be devolved to the Welsh Government.

Profits are coming from the use and exploitation of these assets. Those profits, be they for renewable energy on land or sea, should be given to the people of Wales. Having control of the Crown Estate land and sea in Wales would give us the opportunity to be a world leader in renewable energy and to develop our economy accordingly. In the meantime, the Bill should not include reference to the Crown Estate and should instead provide a series of grants according to the needs of the royal family to undertake their duties. If we are to have one single sovereign grant that is not needs-based, then why not simply increase it by the consumer prices index, as that seems to be the Government’s preferred measure of inflation?

One Response to “Sovereign Grant Bill” [latest first]

  1. Perhaps the Royal Family should receive a block grant based on the Barnett formula, complete with the Barnett squeeze?

    I suggest that the Crown Estates should be renamed immediately to better reflect their contemporary ownership and purpose. If the Royal family are to receive 15% of the profits from these assets, they should also assume 15% of the cost of running the state. Perhaps they could pay for the Army, or at least those regiments that are mostly ceremonial, and are used to aggrandise the public face of the monarchy?

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