Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 160 - 179)



  160. You have already got your sir hood.
  (Sir Michael Peat) Thank you very much for that.

  161. But you have not got yours, Mr Young.
  (Mr Young) This is true.

  162. Indeed.
  (Mr Young) I want to be assessed by how well I am carrying out my functions on page 11 in this particular regard. As this Committee knows, I am Accounting Officer for around 60 quangoes and I oversee them in various ways, successfully or otherwise. Indeed, we were discussing one of my projects just last month in Greenwich.

  163. I would not have reminded us of that one had I been you.
  (Mr Young) It shows what a modest person I am.

Mr Gardiner

  164. Mr Young, have you ever driven down Constitution Hill?
  (Mr Young) Yes.

  165. Have you ever done it at about, I cannot remember what it is, eleven or twelve o'clock in the morning when the Changing of the Guard comes up from having just left Buckingham Palace?
  (Mr Young) Yes.

  166. And do you remember that at the end of the dragoon of horses that come up it is led by the police officer at the front and do you remember what there is at the back?
  (Mr Young) No.

  167. Let me tell you. It is a little road sweeper with his brushes that follows the horses up Constitution Hill. I have to say after this afternoon's performance I feel a little bit like the road sweeper at the end. I have got a few little bits to tidy up. I want to start by asking you who authorised the payment for £14 million from Buckingham Palace receipts that was no longer needed by the fire repairs to go to the Royal Collection Trust? Let me put it simpler: did you authorise it, Mr Young?
  (Mr Young) I do not think such a decision was taken within Government.

  168. Did you authorise it? Did you authorise it? You may not have been asked.
  (Mr Young) Say the question again. I do not want to get the answer wrong. Which decision?

  169. The decision that the £14 million of receipts from Buckingham Palace this year that was no longer required by the repairs to Windsor Castle should be appropriated by, received by, paid to the Royal Collection Trust. Did you authorise that?
  (Mr Young) If I have got the question right, let me just say what I think the answer is to the various questions around this. The formula for the distribution of the Windsor precinct income is set out in the report and has been approved by the Secretary of State.

  170. Let us not get confused here. Are we not talking about the money from Buckingham Palace?
  (Mr Young) That was taken by the Household.
  (Sir Michael Peat) There has been money from admitting visitors to Buckingham Palace and, indeed, to Windsor Castle for hundreds of years.

  171. Sir Michael, earlier on you told the Committee that the admissions to Buckingham Palace had been opened up and that money had been received and specifically earmarked at the beginning for the repairs to Windsor Castle. Then we got into an imbroglio about what should happen now that Windsor Castle fire repairs have been completed. The question that I am asking is who authorised that those additional receipts should be paid to the Royal Collection Trust, or should be retained by, or whatever verb you wish to interpose there? Who authorised that the Royal Collection Trust should have those monies?
  (Sir Michael Peat) May I try to answer the question? I think it is fair that I answer it rather than Robin Young. For many, many years, going back, as I say, to the 18th Century, charges have been made to go into Royal Palaces to see works of art, to see the Palaces, and occasionally—

  172. If the answer, Sir Michael, is that nobody authorised it then that is all you need to say. If we start in the 18th Century my chances of getting enough questions in in my 15 minutes is very limited.
  (Sir Michael Peat) Do let me answer the question. The answer is not that nobody authorised it. The Queen has decided during her reign to open a number of additional parts of her Palaces to the public. Take the Queen's Gallery that she opened in 1962 at Buckingham Palace—

  173. Are you saying that Her Majesty authorised it?
  (Sir Michael Peat) The Queen decided to open the state apartments in addition to the other areas of Buckingham Palace that were already opened and the Queen decided that she would give the money from the state apartments to go towards the costs of the fire restoration.

  174. And now to the question: after the money was no longer required for the fire restoration, did the Queen also decide that it should go to the Royal Collection Trust?
  (Sir Michael Peat) The Queen gave it to the Royal Collection Trust initially. The Royal Collection Trust decided after the fire restoration was complete, and indeed had said it long before the fire restoration was complete, that the money would be used for the general maintenance of items in the Royal Collection.

  175. You have just said that the Royal Collection Trust decided that?
  (Sir Michael Peat) On the Queen's behalf, yes.

  176. On the Queen's behalf. So what you are saying is that the authority—I want to be absolutely clear on this—for that money, that initiative that had raised the £14 million, being kept by the Royal Collection Trust was Her Majesty?
  (Sir Michael Peat) Yes, via the Royal Collection Trust.

  177. So the Royal Collection Trust took the decision on behalf of Her Majesty to keep that money?
  (Sir Michael Peat) Not to keep it, to give it for the maintenance and preservation of items in the Royal Collection. They have not kept it.

  178. And no approval was sought for that or, in the Royal Collection Trust's view, was needed for that decision from any other body whatsoever?
  (Sir Michael Peat) No approval was needed because the money belongs to the Queen, and the Queen gave it to the Royal Collection Trust, because Buckingham Palace is Her Majesty's Palace. Obviously when the Royal Collection Trust was set up in 1993 and when the state rooms of Buckingham Palace were opened in 1993 the matter was discussed with the Treasury and the Queen acts on the advice of ministers.

  179. Right. Can I ask the Treasury officials who are here with us, who within the Treasury at that stage—should I put it this way—agreed with Her Majesty's opinion? Who was responsible for doing that?
  (Mr Glicksman) I am afraid I do not know the answer.

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