Examination of witnesses (Questions 140
MONDAY 18 DECEMBER 2000
BOURN, KCB, MR
YOUNG and SIR
140. So anybody who had a large property while
they were in post would not just stay in that property when they
became a pensioner?
(Sir Michael Peat) No. Even before we took over, no-one
stayed in the property in which they had done their job.
141. In terms of the present occupants, how
is it determined who gets a property? Are there a number of tied
houses tied to particular jobs, or when you become a member of
staff within a certain range you become eligible to apply?
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes. There is a list of staff who
are entitled to housing. At present the list has 205 on it. They
are mainly chauffeurs, gardeners, chefs, maids, people like that,
the firemen, the maintenance men. The large majority of them are
normal domestic workers who are provided with accommodation.
142. I used the figure of £20,000 earlier
on. There is nobody then who would be earning above £20,000,
say, who would be in a grace and favour apartment?
(Sir Michael Peat) Oh, yes, there are. When I was
last examined by your Committee we had 56 officials and private
secretaries who were housed. That number has now reduced to 39.
It is our long-term intention, as was said in the last report
of this Committee, to reduce it to 11. It can only be reduced
as people leave or retire.
143. It is now the position that there is no
job above, say, £20,000 a year, or a figure similar to that,
which requires the member of staff to live above the shop, as
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes, there are some. There are
some jobs that get paid more than £20,000 who are still on
our list, like our fire, health and safety manager. It is very
important he lives on site. Like the Queen's Private Secretary
who actually does not at the moment, the Assistant Private Secretary
does, but who should live on site. Like people who look after
some of the maintenance tasks, senior maintenance people, who
do get paid more than £20,000 and who are on our list to
144. If we do not have available a list of those
who are considered to be essential to be on site
(Sir Michael Peat) It was in the last report.
145. Thank you. Can I just come back to the
point about under-occupation of existing properties. I think you
were suggesting by and large there is very little under-occupation
by pensioners. I understand that the widow of the former Lord
Chamberlain has a two million grace and favour house at Hampton,
is that right? That seems a fairly extreme example.
(Sir Michael Peat) That does not come within my remit,
I am not responsible for Hampton Court. The widow of a former
Lord Chamberlain does have an apartment, I understand, at Hampton
Court but that is not one of the occupied Palaces that comes within
this grant-in-aid or is my responsibility.
146. So that, as a grace and favour apartment,
would not come under your remit at all, is that right?
(Sir Michael Peat) No, it is not one of these Palaces.
147. It would not come under the National Audit
Office and the Public Accounts Committee?
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes, it does come under the National
Audit Office and they have to audit it, but it is not my responsibility
or covered by this report.
148. In terms of repairs, comparing this to
my own area, do I take it that all the repairs done to all the
properties that are occupied by staff or pensioners are all done
as needed and there is no list of repairs that cannot be done
because of cost difficulties?
(Sir Michael Peat) No. We get provided funding by
the department and we have a programme to do all essential repairs.
It is a stitch in time. There is no point letting, particularly
149. I understand that but it does not apply
to my own local authority because they cannot afford it. There
is clearly a double standard that interests me, but that is not
your fault, you use what is available. Can I ask, one issue that
you raised that I did not quite understand was the issue about
the Queen holding the Palaces and collections in trust for the
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes.
150. I think you said that she could not sell
them or pass them on.
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes.
151. Why do we not just do it ourselves? If
they are state assets why does the Government not run them? What
is the advantage of having them in this one removed fashion?
(Sir Michael Peat) I do not know. It is a rather conceptual
question from history. It has always been done like that. What
is the disadvantage in doing it this way?
152. I am asking you the question. There is
no gain at all in having it done in this way, is there?
(Sir Michael Peat) Let me put it like this. I think
there is a gain. Because the Queen is responsible and because
she is particularly interested in minimising expenditure for the
taxpayer. I believe, if you do not mind my saying so very immodestly,
that the Royal Household in running the Palaces and the other
costs of the monarchy has the best cost saving record, or one
of the best cost saving records, in the public sector. We have
reduced the cost of the monarchy from £83 million to £37
million a year, so things are run very efficiently. Why change
a winning team?
153. I am not arguing that. So effectively this
is a method of contracting it out?
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes.
154. You have contracted it out?
(Sir Michael Peat) You could put it like that, yes.
155. Would it be true, if I can put it like
this, that effectively you have contracted this out? We have ownership
of all the assets and you just manage them for us.
(Sir Michael Peat) The Queen, as Head of State, owns
them on behalf of the nation, yes. The Queen, as the Crown, owns
everything because she is Head of State.
Mr Davidson: There are things that the Government
owns. I do not quite understand this distinction between things
that are owned by the Government and things that are owned by
the Queen on behalf of the nation. I understand possibly the merits
of contracting out. I had not seen royalty as being an agency
arrangement before, but that is an interesting way of putting
it. I wonder if I could ask Sir Robin Not Sir Robin actually,
Mr Steinberg: Not yet.
156. Whether or not that is your understanding
of the position?
(Mr Young) Yes, it is. There is a classification of
properties, some of which are owned by the Government, some of
which are owned by the Royal Household, that is what Michael is
157. I understand that, but handling it that
way rather than having it all done by the Government, why do we
have to have Sir Michael, wonderful man though he is, efficient
man though he is, doing all this when it is part of your remit
and you could deal with it directly?
(Mr Young) Certainly in 1991 it was the remit of the
Government department to run the Household's business. Look at
the figure on page 17 which shows the result of sub-contracting
it to someone nearer the ground, whether it is Sir Michael or
somebody else. The Historic Royal Palaces, which is the agency
that runs Hampton Court, which you have just referred to, is run
by a different sort of organisation which is an agency or quango
of my department. That is another model.
158. You have contracted it out and presumably
the principle of that is we could bring it back in-house again
and contract it out to somebody else?
(Mr Young) Yes.
159. Can I just ask about the point referring
to you as Sir Robin. Presumably this is a question that might
come up at some stage in the future and one of your assessors
will be Sir Michael, informally or otherwise. What sort of performance
indicator do you think gets taken into account in these matters
as far as you are concerned? Presumably if you cause difficulties
you will not get one, so from our point of view it will be a mark
of honour if you do not become Sir Robin.
(Sir Michael Peat) To save Robin embarrassment, he
is my assessor, he determines with the Treasury what my pay is.
I have nothing to do with assessing him at all.