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Crown Department

Volume 887: debated on Tuesday 4 March 1975

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4.17 p.m.

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to establish a Crown Department of State.
I do this as a man of peace.

This is not an original idea. There was a debate on this proposition on 14th December 1971, and it had extremely respectable—one might almost say "conservative"—protagonists. Its supporters were not what I would call radicals and certainly not anti-monarchists. They included the present Lord Houghton, then the right hon. Member for Sowerby and a devout defender of the institution of the Monarchy.

Perhaps I might quote what he said on that occasion. The scheme which he was putting forward and which I am now putting forward
"… is not primarily devoted to money. It is more to do with the method of providing money."
He went on to expound the purpose of his proposal which had been before a Select Committee on which both he and I sat, and it was a proposition which had been defeated by only one vote in that all-party Committee.

The purpose was to pay
"… the cost of the upkeep of the Monarchy … out of moneys provided by Parliament instead of it being a permanent charge by Act of Parliament on the Consolidated Fund."
My right hon. Friend went on to point out that the scheme would make
"… the main expenses of the Monarch open to scrutiny and … to debate in this House."—[Official Report, 14th December 1975; Vol. 828, c. 293.]
He asserted, as has been asserted again by the recent report of the Trustees, that in any event there is a good deal of expenditure on this institution already dealt with on departmental Votes. My right hon. Friend quoted the Royal Yacht, the Queen's Flight, the Royal Palaces, and so on. In fact, about £3 million expenditure on the Monarchy is already borne by departmental Votes.

The object of my exercise this afternoon is to carry that further by bringing all the expenses of the upkeep of this institution, now scattered around in various forms, under one head. The body responsible, as my right hon Friend suggested four years ago, would be the Commissioners of the Crown with, although I think that my right hon. Friend retreated from this proposal, a Department and a Minister responsible for answering Questions and debates in this House. That Department would clearly by the Treasury. However, there would be Commissioners of the Crown in the same way as we have Commissioners of the House of Commons to look into the expenditure of this House which is produced on a departmental Vote.

Under my proposals the expenses of the staff and officials of the Crown would be taken off the Civil List and put on the Vote of the Commissioners of the Crown. That would mean that the inflationary problems which we all face today could be dealt with on an annual basis within the terms of the social contract.

Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister went very far along this line when he made his statement on 12th February, because he said:
"The Government therefore propose, with the Queen's agreement, to seek the authority of Parliament to finance future increases in the provision for the Civil List and in the other payments authoriesd by Civil List Acts from 1976 onwards by means of a grant-in-aid made to the Royal Trustees by the Treasury out of moneys provided by Parliament. Grants-in-aid made in accordance with this arrangement would be included in Estimates and voted by Parliament in accordance with the normal procedure of Supply."—[Official Report, 12th February 1975; Vol. 886, c. 375.]
My Bill would not carry that much further than that which the Prime Minister recommended a few weeks ago, but it would bring us nearer to what every hon. Member wants—open and honest democratic government.

It seems to many hon. Members that the Monarch cannot have it both ways as is the case now. It cannot be argued that there is a private Household and all that taxpayers have to do is foot the bill. It is either private or public. It cannot be private and yet be financed by the taxpayer.

The principles enunciated by my right hon. Friend the then Member for Sowerby, now Lord Houghton, were supported by the Leader of the Liberal Party. One of his arguments was that the creation of a Crown Department of State would
"relieve the Monarch and the Royal Family of the enormous amount of very unfair publicity which they have to suffer at the moment."—[Official Report, 14th December 1971; Vol. 828, c. 327.]
My right hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Barnett), now a brilliant jewel on the Treasury Bench, referred in scathing terms to the tax-free income of well over £100,000 for Prince Charles. We are waiting impatiently for him to remedy those abuses in the tax system. But that has nothing to do with my Bill. That is for the Treasury.

I refer now to the closing speech in the debate in December 1971 made by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. That was a forthright speech in which he accepted the proposition put forward by my right hon. Friend the then Member for Sowerby, now Lord Houghton. In the vote that ensued the present Prime Minister, with the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Education and Science, the Secretary of State for Employment, the Secretary of State for Social Services, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Chief Whip voted for the proposition. In fact, that Lobby on that day reeked of respectability and deference. Therefore, there can be no question but that this Bill has very respectable antecedents.

I feel that the fears expressed in that debate—namely, that if annual Votes were presented to this House on the cost of the Monarchy they might lead to unseemly and perhaps embarrassing party wrangling—are unjustified. Having witnessed the scenes of the last few minutes, I do not think that we need to be afraid or ashamed of scenes of that kind. I understand the hysteria of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. They know that there is an unpleasant tax on its way for them, but we shall be debating that in due course. What I am proposing will happen anyway under the limited proposals announced by the Prime Minister on 12th February. The prospect is now offered of getting the institution of the Monarchy and its costs on to a more comprehensible and democratic footing.

It is in that spirit that I hope that the House will give me leave to introduce the Bill.

4.25 p.m.

I shall not detain the House long. I do not think that the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) should be allowed to get away with this Bill. Although the hon. Gentleman sought leave in terms rather more moderate than he adopts when talking in somewhat bilious rhetoric about the Royal Family, I think that it could be said that he seeks leave to introduce the Bill because, as a passionate believer in republicanism, he sees this as a step on the road towards republicanism.

I do not believe that the House should countenance this kind of suggestion and should not allow the Bill to be introduced, let alone have a Second Reading. To have a Minister of the Crown answerable for the affairs of the Monarchy at the Dispatch Box could serve only to weaken the democracy in which we all believe and for which we all struggle.

Anyone who witnessed the events of the last hour and of last night—the hon. Gentleman quite fairly referred to that matter—cannot for a moment think that to have the Crown represented by a partisan Minister at the Dispatch Box could serve the purposes of democracy and of the British constitution. I suggest that if hon. Members opposite allow the hon. Gentleman to introduce his Bill and consider giving it a Second Reading at a later date, they will be dealing a very real blow against the constitution which we all seek to uphold and at the Monarchy in which most people in this country—

Not all, I am reminded. I think that 91 hon. Members indicated last week that they did not support it. However, I suggest that most people in this country would view with considerable—[Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen may make impolite interjections from a sedentary position, but most people in this country wish to uphold the Monarchy. Most people believe that it is the most priceless asset that this country has and that it is the most important guardian of the liberties of the individual.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman is raising an issue that was not dealt with by my hon. Friend in seeking leave to introduce his Bill. I appeal to you to bring some order to the House.

I regret that it is a common experience for hon. Members to refer to issues that have not been raised. I suggest that the House hears the hon. Gentleman and reaches a decision rather quickly.

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for your protection. I was seeking to argue that anybody who heard the sepech by the hon. Member for Fife, Central could not deny that he was suggesting that there should be a Department of the Crown with a Minister answerable to this House. I suggest that that would weaken the Monarchy and our constitution. Furthermore, I suggest that

Division No. 119.]


[4.30 p.m.

Allaun, FrankEvans, John (Newton)McElhone, Frank
Anderson, DonaldEwing, Harry (Stirling)MacFarquhar, Roderick
Armstrong, ErnestFaulds, AndrewMackenzie, Gregor
Ashley, JackFernyhough, Rt Hon E.McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)
Ashton, JoeFlannery, MartinMcNamara, Kevin
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Madden, Max
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Fraser John (Lambeth, N'w'd)Marks, Kenneth
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Freeson, ReginaldMarquand, David
Bates, AlfGarrett, John (Norwich S)Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)Meacher, Michael
Booth, AlbertGinsburg, DavidMiller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Boothroyd, Miss BettyGolding, JohnMiller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)
Bradley, TomGould, BryanMolloy, William
Bray, Dr JeremyGrocott, BruceNewens, Stanley
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)Noble, Mike
Buchan, NormanHardy, PeterOrbach, Maurice
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)Hatton, FrankOvenden, John
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Hayman, Mrs HelenePalmer, Arthur
Campbell, IanHeffer, Eric S.Pardoe, John
Canavan, DennisHooley, FrankPark, George
Carmichael, NeilHoyle, Doug (Nelson)Parry, Robert
Carter, RayHuckfield, LesPavitt, Laurie
Clemitson, IvorHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Penhaligon, David
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)Hughes, Roy (Newport)Perry, Ernest
Cohen, StanleyHunter, AdamPrescott, John
Colquhoun, Mrs MaureenJackson, Colin (Brighouse)Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)Janner, GrevillePrice, William (Rugby)
Corbett, RobinJeger, Mrs LenaRadice, Giles
Cox, Thomas (Tooting)Johnston, Russell (Inverness)Richardson, Miss Jo
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)Jones, Alec (Rhondda)Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Cunningham, Dr J. (Witeh)Jones, Barry (East Flint)Roderick, Caerwyn
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)Jones, Dan (Burnley)Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)Judd, FrankRodgers, William (Stockton)
Deakins, EricKaufman, GeraldRooker, J. W.
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Kelley RichardRoper, John
de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyKerr, RussellRose, Paul B.
Dempsey, JamesKilroy-Silk, RobertRowlands, Ted
Doig, PeterKinnock, NeilSedgemore, Brian
Dormand, J. D.Lambie, DavidSelby, Harry
Douglas-Mann, BruceLamborn, HarryShaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Eadie, AlexLamond, JamesSheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Edelman, MauriceLatham, Arthur (Paddington)Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Edge, GeoffLewis, Ron (Carlisle)Silverman, Julius
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)Lipton, MarcusSkinner, Dennis
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)Litterick, TomSnape, Peter
English, MichaelLomas, KennethSpearing, Nigel
Ennals, DavidLoyden, EddieSpriggs, Leslie
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)Mabon, Dr J. DicksonStallard, A. W.
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)McCartney, HughSteel, David (Roxburgh)

the hon. Gentleman was merely moving that motion because it was inappropriate to move a motion for the abolition of royalty—or royalties—or anything like that.

I put it to the House that the greatest symbol of unity that this country has is the Monarchy and that anybody who accepts the suggestions of the hon. Member and brings into the political arena, with all the problems that that involves, the Monarchy of this country is doing a great disservice to our democracy. With those words I forthrightly oppose the Bill that the hon. Gentleman seeks to introduce.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 ( Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of Public Business):—

The House divided: Ayes 174, Noes 207.

Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)Torney, TomWhitlock, William
Stoddart, DavidWainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Stott, RogerWalker, Terry (Kingswood)Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)Ward, MichaelWilson, William (Coventry SE)
Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)Watkins, DavidWise, Mrs Audrey
Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)Watkinson, JohnWrigglesworth, Ian
Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)Wellbeloved, JamesYoung, David (Bolton E)
Thorne, Stan (Preston South)White, Frank R. (Bury)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Tierney, SydneyWhite, James (Pollok)Mr. Bob Cryer and
Tomlinson, JohnWhitehead, PhillipMr. James Johnson.


Adley, RobertGrant, Anthony (Harrow C)Morris, Michael (Northampton S)
Alison, MichaelGray, HamishMorrison, Charles (Devizes)
Amery, Rt Hon JulianGrieve, PercyMorrison, Hon Peter (Chester)
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)Griffiths, EldonMudd, David
Awdry, DanielGrimond, Rt Hon J.Neave, Airey
Baker, KennethGrist, IanNott, John
Banks, RobertGrylls, MichaelOnslow, Cranley
Beith, A. J.Hall, Sir JohnOsborn, John
Bell, RonaldHall-Davis, A. G. F.Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)Hampson, Dr KeithPaisley, Rev Ian
Benyon, W.Hannam, JohnParkinson, Cecil
Berry, Hon AnthonyHarrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)Pattie, Geoffrey
Biffen, JohnHarvie Anderson, Rt Hon MissPercival, Ian
Biggs-Davison, JohnHavers, Sir MichaelPeyton, Rt Hon John
Blaker, PeterHayhoe BarneyPowell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Boscawen, Hon RobertHenderson DouglasPrior, Rt Hon James
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)Heseltine, MichaelPym, Rt Hon Francis
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)Higgins, Terence L.Raison, Timothy
Braine, Sir BernardHolland, PhilipRathbone, Tim
Brotherton, MichaelHooson, EmlynRenton, Rt Hon Sir D.(Hunts)
Buchanan-Smith, AlickHordern, PeterRenton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Bulmer, EsmondHowe Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Burden, F. A.Howell, David (Guildford)Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Butler, Adam (Bosworth)Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Rifkind, Malcolm
Chalker, Mrs LyndaHowells, Geraint (Cardigan)Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Channon, PaulIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Churchill, W. S.Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)James, DavidRoss, William (Londonderry)
Clark, William (Croydon S)Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Jessel, TobySainsbury, Tim
Clegg, WalterJones, Arthur (Daventry)St. John-Stevas, Norman
Cockcroft, JohnJopling, MichaelShaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineShelton, William (Streatham)
Cope, JohnKershaw, AnthonyShepherd, Colin
Cormack, PatrickKilfedder, JamesSilvester, Fred
Corrie, JohnKing, Tom (Bridgwater)Sims, Roger
Costain, A. P.Knight, Mrs JillSinclair, Sir George
Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E)Lane, DavidSmith, Dudley (Warwick)
Crawford, DouglasLangford-Holt, Sir JohnSpence, John
Crouch, DavidLatham, Michael (Melton)Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)Lawrence, IvanSproat, Iain
Dean, Paul (N Somerset)Lawson, NigelStainton, Keith
Dodsworth, GeoffreyLe Marchant, SpencerStanley, John
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesLester, Jim (Beeston)Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardLuce, RichardStokes, John
Dunlop, JohnMacCormick, IainStradling Thomas, J.
Durant, TonyMcCrindle, RobertTapsell, Peter
Dykes, HughMcCusker, H.Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnMacfarlane, NeilTaylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)Tebbit, Norman
Emery, PeterMcNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)Madel, DavidThompson, George
Eyre, ReginaldMarshall, Michael (Arundel)Townsend, Cyril D.
Fairbairn, NicholasMarten, NeilTugendhat, Christopher
Fairgrieve, RussellMather, Carolvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Fell, AnthonyMaudling, Rt Hon ReginaldVaughan, Dr Gerard
Finsberg GeoffreyMawby, RayWainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Fisher, Sir NigelMaxwell-Hyslop, RobinWalters, Dennis
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMayhew, PatrickWarren, Kenneth
Fowler Norman (Sutton C'f'd)Meyer, Sir AnthonyWatt, Hamish
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)Weatherill, Bernard
Freud, ClementMills, PeterWelsh, Andrew
Fry, PeterMitchell, David (Basingstoke)Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Gardiner George (Reigate)Moate, RogerWinterton, Nicholas
Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)Molyneaux, JamesYoung, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)Monro, HectorYounger, Hon George
Goodhew, VictorMontgomery, Fergus
Gorst, JohnMoore, John (Croydon C)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)More, Jasper (Ludlow)Mr. Peter Rost and
Gower Sir Raymond (Barry)Morgan-Giles, Rear-AdmiralMr. Michael Mates.

Question accordingly negatived.