asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what amounts were transferred to the Exchequer as bona vacantia in the last twelve months to the most recent convenient date, and in each of the two preceding years; and what percentage such figures represented of the total estates annually involved.
In 1958, 1959 and 1960 the net value of bona vacantia after meeting all legal claims and ex gratia payments was £289,000, £414,000 and £326,000 respectively. In most cases no applications for ex gratia payments were made. For the minority of estates in which they were, the proportions retained for the Exchequer lay between 56 and 59 per cent. For the whole range of cases the percentage varied between 81 and 86 per cent.
I am much obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but is not this really getting a very serious grievance? Many of us have cases of this kind where close friends who maintained the deceased for a very long time make applications which have very unsatisfactory results. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman really look at the question and see whether it is not proper and fit to have a general rule that, on the whole, the estate shall go to those most closely connected, either by blood or by friendship, rather than be forfeited to the Exchequer?
That, I think, really arises on the hon. Gentleman's next Question.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will introduce a procedure for further appeal by friends or relatives who have claimed to participate in bona vacantia.
No, Sir. While applicants are sometimes naturally disappointed, I am satisfied that their requests are carefully and sympathetically considered under the existing practice and arrangements; and I would add that if the hon. Member will send me particulars of any individual case, I will certainly see that they are sympathetically considered.
I am grateful for that Answer, but the point which I am trying to make, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman will consider it, is that at the moment, as far as I am aware, only written representations are possible in the normal cases. In Oldham they are made to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and outside Lancashire to the Treasury Solicitor. People are in a difficulty if in matters of great importance to them the only thing they can do is to write a letter and await results.
I should make it clear that my Answer does not include the Duchy of Lancaster. Claims there are dealt with differently. I will look into the point raised by the hon. Gentleman and see that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is made aware of it.