16 April 2013

Tony Berkeley, a Labour member of the Lords who has raised questions about the duchy of Cornwall before, has now published a bill, Rights of the Sovereign and the Duchy of Cornwall Bill 2012-13, to change aspects of the present arrangements involving the queen, duchy funds, and gender specificity.

The text of the bill is here. The explanatory notes for the bill are here.

I don’t think the bill will make progress but let me take a quick survey.

The least contentious part of the bill is the provision for the inheritance of the title of duke of Cornwall by the monarch’s eldest child of whatever gender. The issue of titles becoming gender-neutral ranges beyond the duchy of Cornwall and should be tackled as a whole issue but a gender-neutral duchy will happen and has already been raised in the debate on the government’s Succession to the Crown Bill 2012-13. I agree that the inheritance of titles while they remain should be gender-neutral though I think titles should be abolished.

I agree that consulting the queen and duke about proposed legislation that might affect their financial and constitutional interests, and in effect asking for their consent to go ahead, should end. It will be very difficult to persuade parliament, unlike me sympathetic to monarchy and its privileges, to see that.

Berkeley suggests in his bill that “the assets and property of the Duchy of Cornwall shall be transferred to and shall vest in a public trust for the benefit of the people of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly”. I see problems. Much of the duchy estate and assets lie outside Cornwall and Scilly; why should they go only to people here? If duchy income is to be redistributed, why should its income generated in, say, Devon go to people in Cornwall?

The bill lacks details. The duchy funds, it says, should go to a public trust which would distribute them “for the benefit of the people” of Cornwall and Scilly (see paragraph above for geography). Who will appoint the trust? How will what is of benefit be decided? Will the people to be benefited have an effective say? Importantly, who will manage the income-generating components of the duchy estate? How much will be distributed and how much reinvested in the estate and for a rainy day?

Reform of the duchy needs more than this bill.


Gender-blind duchy of Cornwall 27 June 2012

Future of the duchy 27 June 2012

Groundhog duchy 27 February 2012

Questions, answers 9 December 2011

Medieval middens 8 December 2011

Premature hosannas 17 November 2011

Stannary law defunct 14 July 2011

Duchy of Cornwall is a private estate 13 May 2011

Government: ‘Cornwall is part of England’ 12 January 2011

Duchy of Cornwall 20 November 2010

Crown Estate owns sea and seabed off county of Cornwall 12 October 2010

Stannary law obsolete 21 May 2009

Cornwall today 11 April 2009

Who owns the Cornwall foreshore? 11 February 2009

Cornwall is part of England – and staying put 9 October 2008

Cornwall today 11 April 2007

– and Aristotle’s teeth

See also the Lords Hansard 18 January 2012 column 623 where Berkeley had an amendment that the duchy and Crown Estate should be defined as public bodies; the government response is at column 634. The amendment was not moved.