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Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster

Volume 493: debated on Wednesday 3 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) what definition his Department uses of (a) a private estate and (b) a statutory perpetual trust in relation to the status of the Duchies of (i) Cornwall and (ii) Lancaster; [275541]

(2) whether estates other than the Duchy of Cornwall receive bona vacantia properties.

In England and Wales, property which is bona vacantia is ownerless property that passes to the Crown by law. It devolves to the Crown, the Duchy of Cornwall or the Duchy of Lancaster depending on where the last private owner was domiciled when they died or in the case of a dissolved company where the registered office and the asset were located. It is administered by the Treasury Solicitor on behalf of the Crown and by the solicitors acting on behalf of the Duchy of Cornwall or Lancaster respectively.

In general terms, the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster are private estates in that they belong to the heir apparent and the monarch respectively in their private capacities. The term “private estates” is, however, defined in several statutes including the Crown Private Estates Acts 1800, 1862 and 1873 and the Crown Lands Act 1823. The meaning of the term in this context is governed by the relevant statute.

I am not aware that my Department has used the term “statutory perpetual trust” to define the status of the Duchies. Nor is the term used in statute to describe them.