Tony Gueterbock (lord Berkeley) has introduced another bill about the duchy of Cornwall into the House of Lords. The best way in is through the explanatory notes (pdf) explanatory notes.

The earlier Berkeley bill, the Rights of the sovereign and duchy of Cornwall bill, has fallen away. This bill (Duchy of Cornwall bill) had its first reading on 10 June 2014. It makes the eldest child of the monarch, regardless of gender, duke of Cornwall, requires the duchy estate to pay income and capital gains tax, and removes various exemptions and privileges of the duchy.

The bill is well founded, though it deals with both constitutional issues such as succession and estate issues such as tax; it should be enacted; but won’t be. However, I hope Berkeley keeps at it and slowly timid and deferential government might see the point of reform.

Earlier posts
Duchy bill rumbles on 9 November 2013
Curate’s egg duchy bill 16 April 2013
Gender-blind duchy of Cornwall 2 March 2013
Curate’s egg duchy bill 16 April 2013
Future of the duchy of Cornwall 7 June 2012


Advertisements

DUCHY BILL RUMBLES ON

9 November 2013

For duchy exemption from corporation and capital gains taxes see the update at the foot of this post.

The second reading of Tony Berkeley’s bill to reform aspects of the duchy of Cornwall, the Rights of the sovereign and the duchy of Cornwall bill, had its second reading in the Lords on 8 November 2013. It will now be considered by a committee of the whole house. Current proposed amendments are here.

Berkeley accepted that his private member’s bill was an inappropriate means of effect change. He said his purpose was “to start a debate” about the duchy and in that necessary task I think he has succeeded.

Berkeley repeated his arguments and received some support from Robin Teverson, a Libdem member from Cornwall. Labour offered somewhat tepid support to look at the issues raised. The Tory/Libdem government seemed to oppose the bill’s most revolutionary and useful proposal, putting the duchy assets into a trust – “an unacceptable encroachment on private property rights”.

Michael Forsyth noted (column 449) the irony of “a hereditary peer given a life peerage attending a house which is not subject to democratic accountability and in which we are given tax-free allowances complaining about tax privileges and a lack of accountability”. Ouch.

Update 19 November 2013
In the Commons the Treasury said that it had made no estimate of the loss to tax revenue of the exemption of the duchy of Cornwall from corporation tax and capital gains tax (Hansard 18 November 2013 column 774W).

Earlier post
Curate’s egg duchy bill 16 April 2013


I have recorded the toing and froing of Cornish nationalism as it tries to prove that the duchy of Cornwall, or that part of it coterminous with the county of Cornwall, is really an independent country with the duke as head of state; what it grandly calls the constitutional status of the duchy of Cornwall. The government has consistently rejected these claims. I put at the foot links to the numerous posts on the blog for those who wish to wander in the foothills of medievalism.

The other day the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons looked at the finances of the duchy and the taxes it did and did not pay and touched on its status. It seems to have been a fun time. You can read it all here.

I think what emerged is a repetition of the official view that the duchy is a private estate of the duke but it has financial privileges, that is advantages, other private estates do not have. As the committee chair said, “A bit muddled” (Question 16).

I think in 2013 the duchy is a private estate providing a large income for the duke and his family. It is not a separate kingdom. However, as I explained in my last post, there are contemporary issues raised by Tony Berkeley in his bill about the ownership and distribution of the assets and income of the duchy.

Oh, and there’s this from the Lords in answer to a question from Matthew Oakeshott about stamp duty and the duchy (Lords Hansard 29 July 2013 column 260W).

EARLIER DUCHY POSTS
Curate’s egg duchy bill 16 April 2013
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.


A DATE WITH THE DUCHY

12 July 2013

15 July 2013, 3.15 pm, Parliament
Public Accounts select committee. Subject: Duchy of Cornwall accounts
Witnesses: William Nye, principal private secretary to the duke and duchess of Cornwall; Keith Willis, finance director of the duchy of Cornwall; and Paula Diggle, treasury officer of accounts, Treasury.


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.

RELATED POSTS

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.


The Succession to the Crown Bill, which seeks to make the oldest heir, irrespective of gender, the inheritor of the throne of the UK, has thrown up questions about the duchy of Cornwall. At present only the oldest son and heir apparent of the monarch can have the title duke of Cornwall and own the duchy estate. When the heir to the throne is a female (or grandson) the title duke of Cornwall goes into abeyance but, due to the Sovereign Grant Act 2011, the equivalent of duchy money goes to the female non-duke.

This duchy issue has been discussed in parliament earlier but I draw attention as a catch-up to the specific amendment of Francis Baring (lord Northbrook) the other day to make succession to the duchy not dependent on gender, along with the debate about the amendment (Lords Hansard 28 February 2013 column 1188).

Tony Berkeley said he would be introducing a private bill to tackle issues around the powers and funds of the duchy that he raised previously. See this earlier post about Berkeley’s concerns Future of the duchy. It links to previous posts on the duchy.


DUCHY QUESTIONS AGAIN

8 November 2012

Another sisyphean day for duchy of Cornwall questions in parliament.

Dan Rogerson, Libdem MP for North Cornwall, asked his Tory Libdem government to make the duchy of Cornwall subject to the Freedom of Information Act. The government said that the duchy “is not a public authority for the purposes of” the Act and it wasn’t going to “extend the Act to the duchy of Cornwall in general” (Hansard 5 November 2012 column 491W). In other words, the answer to Rogerson’s question is No. I think the “in general” part is a cautionary nod to oysters.

Rogerson’s question might be seen as a follow-up to the third one asked by Andrew George last year ( Hansard 14 November 2011 column 532W). That was about the duchy status; was it for legislation purposes a public body.

I find it difficult to pin down the exact views of the devolutionary Libdem party in Cornwall. There seems to me to be an incoherence between the romance of a semi-independent, home-rule Cornwall and the financial realities of paying for Cornwall. I explored these themes in this post on Rogerson’s failed devolution bill and this post on hokey-kokey nationalism.

There are variations on autonomy in nationalism but I explored the full-on take here. I think that there is a reluctant in nationalism to explain how Cornwall would be financed: see for example the post on Cornish nationalism and the Rub’ al Khali.

It is well established in parliamentary questions and answers that the duchy of Cornwall is a private estate with assets providing the duke with an income. That is the informed government view; and the 1337 foundation and the evolution of reality support that view. I set out my view last November. But no doubt there will be more questions and more rebuffs and noes but perhaps, to stretch Camus, we must imagine Sisyphus happy.

Note
Sisyphus: Albert CAMUS The mythe of Sisyphe(1942)