Flat White

My husband and I … are paying for the renos, thank you

20 November 2016

10:47 AM

20 November 2016

10:47 AM

Trooping The ColourYou would have thought that with the egg on their faces over Brexit and the American election, the media would be more careful with the truth.

But listening to the BBC on the urgent and long overdue work to restore Buckingham Palace, it seems that accuracy is not a priority. It’s one thing for the United Kingdom’s minuscule republican movement to spread the untruth that taxpayers are to pay for the £369 million ($600 m) 10-year program. But why do some in the media repeat this?

The fact is the taxpayers will not pay a brass razoo.  The Queen will pay for everything.

This work is urgent after a safety audit found that the building its priceless artwork within it was at serious risk from either a fire or water damage. According to the Treasury, this work must be undertaken to prevent the sort of damage suffered in the 1992 fire at Windsor Castle. It seems that the palace’s boilers are more than 33 years old and finding spare parts for them is very difficult. Most of the mechanical and electric systems are at least 40 years old with an ever increasing risk of fire and failure.

The fact is the Queen and The Queen and the Royal Family have long represented an extraordinary bargain for each of the sixteen realms over which The Queen reigns, as well as for all of the countries that are members of the Commonwealth of which Her Majesty is Head.

It is not true, as rebuplicans and others say, that they are a drain on the taxpayers. In fact, they are the only constitutional monarchy in the world that is self-funding. They have long been a benefit not only to the British but also the Australian and other Treasuries, quite apart from their massive tourist and promotional potential. Australians have never paid a cent for this, with no salaries, no superannuation. No golden handshakes and no jobs for the boys and girls.

On her accession, the Queen followed the practice of every monarch since George III.  She handed over to the government the income of the Crown Estate, a portfolio mainly properties in London and across the nation. In return, the Queen and the Royal family would receive from the UK Treasury what increasingly became a small proportion of that income. This was called the “civil list” which was topped up with what were called as “grants in aid” to cover the costs of maintaining official properties, receptions, staff and so on. There was no salary for the Queen, just the costs of Queen of the United Kingdom and her other realms and Head of the Commonwealth.  The media would ignore the fact that the money for this effectively came from the Queen’s Crown Estate, a portfolio of properties in London and across the United Kingdom. They would always talk about the poor taxpayers having to fund the Royals.

From 2012 a new system of funding was instituted. Instead of the Treasury paying the Queen the civil list and other grants, a sum is kept from the Crown Estate income. This is wisely named as a ‘‘Sovereign Grant’’, which is what the Queen is allowed to keep of her own money. It should have been described as the net income after the Queen had paid a special draconian tax rate of 85 percent to a rapacious British government. Incidentally, is she the only person in the world to pay such a ridiculously high rate of tax?

Because the palace has been allowed to be run down by the British government, the Royal Trustees, who include the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, have recommended that the Queen pay for the restoration of Buckingham Palace. This will be done by allowing her to keep 25 percent of her income instead of 15 percent. In other words, the British government proposes reducing the rate of tax the Queen pays to 75 percent. How generous. In return, the Queen must use her 25 percent for the public purposes of the United Kingdom as well as those of the other realms including Australia and the Commonwealth. I hope the Republicans recognise how generous our Royal family is.

This is an extraordinary deal for the taxpayers. Now it’s probably understandable that the minuscule British republican movement, which has its mission the dissolution of the United Kingdom, would try to pull the wool over people’s eyes. But surely some in the British media are better than that. Could they just report the true story to the world?

There is a sound argument that a further form should be adopted. This is that the Crown Estate be subject to normal taxation in the United Kingdom. Any amounts over and above the tax should be a matter for the Queen to determine. Her Majesty would be free to seek the advice of her prime ministers, British, Australian, New Zealand Canadian and so on that would be free to decide what she wanted to do. I suspect that the overwhelming majority of citizens of the various realms would rather trust the Queen than the politicians about this.

One example of what is necessary is the crying need to replace Britannia as a Royal Navy hospital ship and Royal Yacht. Those who know, recognise that this was a tremendous investment for the foreign relations, international trade and for the international influence of Britain and the Commonwealth. Why oh why shouldn’t the Queen decide on the allocation of the Crown Estate surplus over time to achieve this desirable objective if she believes that it’s important?

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