The government has today published the Sovereign Grant Bill.
The Bill will establish a more permanent, flexible and accountable way of supporting Her Majesty, The Queen in Her official duties. The Civil List has been paid to Sovereigns since 1760. Legislation was last substantively revised in 1972. The Bill sets out the detail of the approach announced by the government at the June Budget 2010 and Spending Review 2010.
In introducing the Bill to Parliament, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne said:
The Civil List has been paid to Sovereigns since 1760, following agreement by George III to surrender surplus revenue from the Crown Estate to the Exchequer in return for grant support. Legislation was last substantively revised in 1972. The Civil List is reviewed every ten years and was last reviewed in 2001; the grant level was last changed by Statutory Instrument in 1990.
Single grant for support to the Royal Household
The Bill will legislate for a single Sovereign Grant, as announced by the government at Spending Review 2010. This new Grant will replace the existing three grants the government provides to the Royal Household: a Civil List from the Exchequer; a Grant-in-aid for Royal travel from the Department for Transport (DfT); and a Grant-in-aid for the maintenance of Royal palaces, and for communications and information, from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
The new Sovereign Grant will normally be set at 15% of Crown Estate surplus revenue in the year two years prior. The new method for calculating the Grant will take effect from 2013-14.
The new Grant will be overseen by the Royal Trustees. The Royal Trustees are the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Keeper of the Privy Purse. If the Grant proves greater than required in a given year, the surplus will be paid into a reserve fund managed by the Royal Trustees, which may be drawn down in future years, as required. Trustees should not allow the reserve to exceed half of the Grant in that year, by specifying a lower Grant amount. In addition, the Trustees will be bound to consider the suitability of the percentage at intervals of seven years and to propose a new percentage where necessary.
Scrutiny of support to the Royal Household
The Bill will legislate to extend accountability of support to the Royal Household, as announced by the Government in June Budget 2010. From 2012, the Sovereign Grant accounts will be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General, scrutinised by the National Audit Office, and laid before the House. This will subject them to the same audit scrutiny as any Government department, including, if it so decides, by the Public Accounts Committee.
Rationalisation of other arrangements for supporting the Royal Household
The Bill also includes a number of other measures to reform support to the Royal Household.
It will ensure that the heir to the throne, whether or not (s)he is also the Duke of Cornwall, receives the equivalent of full revenues of the Duchy. So all heirs, whether Duke of Cornwall or not, are treated the same.
Powers in previous Civil List legislation have been set to expire six months after the end of a Monarch’s reign. In this time, Parliament must agree provision for the successor Sovereign. The Bill removes this requirement by allowing future incoming Monarchs to extend its provisions for their reigns by Order in Council.
The Bill also repeals a number of Parliamentary annuities that are payable to other members of the Royal Family. These annuities are a statutory anomaly since Her Majesty, The Queen reimburses the Exchequer for their cost from Her Privy Purse. However, there is no change to the annuity paid to His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh which will continue to be payable direct from the Consolidated Fund.
The Bill was tabled on resolution yesterday, following a Gracious Message by Her Majesty, The Queen. The Chancellor opened a debate on the resolutions today in the House of Commons, after which the Bill was formally presented to the House and published in full. As a Supply Bill, it will not be debated in the House of Lords. The Government expects to complete its passage through Parliament by the end of the year.
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