Examination of witnesses (Questions 200
MONDAY 18 DECEMBER 2000
BOURN, KCB, MR
YOUNG and SIR
200. You said that £50,000 was received
for one commercial letting of the 12 outside of the security cordon.
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes.
201. But for all seven properties within the
Palaces on which the officers of the Royal Collection Trust pay
rent, am I not right in saying that for all seven properties the
rent that they achieve is less than £50,000?
(Sir Michael Peat) None of those are within the Palaces,
they are dotted around. They are cottages and small flats. If
your point is that the flats within the Palaces could be rented
out for considerably more money than the staff who occupy them
pay, I agree entirely, and the report of this Committee, published
in 1997, said exactly that.
202. It also refused to provide the information,
did it not, about the job descriptions of the private secretaries
and officials in the Queen's Household who were in grace and favour
accommodation, whether or not they were in full or part-time employment,
why they each needed to be accommodated in a Palace and what accommodation
each of those persons had?
(Sir Michael Peat) No. We provided full details which
were published in the 1997 Report with the number of bedrooms,
the number of bathrooms. We said exactly why each of them needed
to be accommodated, the 11 that were listed in your last report.
For the employees who were Civil List employees and not grant-in-aid
employees, Robin Young's predecessor was not in a position to
provide the job descriptions because it should have been the Treasury
that should have been asked for the job descriptions, not the
203. You are in a position to provide that information?
(Sir Michael Peat) No, I am not. That has to come
through the department or the Treasury because they are the ultimate
Accounting Officers. I am a sub-Accounting Officer. The only issue
about the job descriptions, that much has been made of, was that
the person who was asked for the job descriptions was the wrong
person. It is as simple as that.
204. Could we ask, if this has to come through
the Treasury, that that information should be provided to this
because I do think it is important that we should know what the
job descriptions are of these people who are in grace and favour
apartments and why they need to be accommodated within the Royal
Palaces? I was stunned by Sir Michael's comment earlier that there
are people, like the Queen's Private Secretary, and then he corrected
himself and said he is not accommodated within the Royal Palace,
it is the Assistant Private Secretary who is. I think it is important
that we should have that information for transparency so that
this Committee can see whether these people are worth what they
are receiving or not.
(Sir Michael Peat) I am sure if the Treasury were
happy we would be delighted to do that. Can I refer you to the
conclusions of this Committee set out in its report of 1997, that
it appreciated that it was better to have the apartments occupied
and to receive some rent from them than to leave them vacant and
to earn no money at all for the taxpayer. So while we are very
happy, I am sure, to provide job descriptions, the job descriptions
are not entirely relevant to the matter, as the Committee appreciated
last time and as it said in its conclusions. The fact is, if you
do not put staff in there the apartments will be empty and the
taxpayer will be worse off.
Mr Gardiner: I am not suggesting that.
205. Firstly, to the Treasury, can we please
have the information that Mr Gardiner asked for, we will have
a note on that?
(Mr Glicksman) I will take that question away and
see what I can find.
Chairman: And provide us with an answer. Mr
Williams, do you have a comment to make?
206. Yes. You do not have to take our word for
it, you only have to look at appendix two to the 1995 Report where
the correspondence between myself and the Comptroller & Auditor
General was published in full. I there asked for the job descriptions,
to know whether they were full-time or part-time and why each
needed to be accommodated in the Palace, just so I could see whether
it justified the enormous subsidy they were getting in terms of
accommodation and we now discover their 20 per cent non-contributory
pension. The subsequent letters from the Comptroller & Auditor
General on the following page make it clear that the decisions
on who occupies accommodation in the various properties and on
what terms are, however, for Her Majesty on the advice of her
officials and the information was refused, not just to myself
but to the Comptroller & Auditor General.
(Sir Michael Peat) Could I refer you to page 34 where
the job descriptions are printed. The job descriptions that the
Accounting Officer was able to provide were provided. There is
a job description, and there are other job descriptions there
too. It is only that the question was put to the wrong Accounting
207. I was also asking whether people were full-time
or part-time, which is not made clear, and why they need to be
accommodated in the Palace as opposed to living, as most members
of staff do, out in the community. The report is absolutely clear,
the Comptroller & Auditor General would hardly have sent me
the replies he did if he felt that the information was already
given and answered the questions I had asked. This information
was refused to him.
(Sir Michael Peat) The information that the Accounting
Officer could give you was given because that was the person to
whom the letter was sent.
208. I am sorry, but the normal procedure, particularly
with parliamentary questions, Sir Michael, is to ask the department
and the department says "we consult with the Palace before
we answer in relation to matters relating to the Palace".
Now you are telling us that the Comptroller & Audit General
was not told by the Accounting Officer, that means Mr Hayden Phillips,
if I remember correctly, a hallowed name in my potential memoirs.
(Sir Michael Peat) I think you are being very unfair
209. He failed to communicate to Sir John, despite
approaches from Sir John, that information would easily have been
available if only Sir John, on behalf of this Committee, had asked
(Sir Michael Peat) Here is the letter back and I am
reading it: "Regarding your first question,........the Civil
List Audit Act makes the audit of the Civil List the responsibility
of HM Treasury and the Civil List is not funded from an appropriation
account". The reply is absolutely crystal clear, the Accounting
Officer to whom you wrote was not able to answer the question.
I think you are being a bit unfair to Hayden Phillips.
210. The reply also says "And I have no
access under the National Audit Act to information relating to
the Civil List". It says that at the foot of the page. Are
you telling us that for all this time this information was readily
available, but in any case it would solve the problem and you
will now ensure that it is readily available?
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes. As far as the Household is
concerned, the information is always readily available.
211. So we will have it in an annex to our next
(Sir Michael Peat) It has to be put through the Treasury.
I am not the Accounting Officer who can make that decision.
Chairman: Sir Michael, we will have an interesting
test of this seeing what information comes back to our request.
I am sure you can talk to each other to make sure that the right
officer is asked
212. If Mr Barry Gardiner was the chap who sweeps
up the horse droppings in the cavalcade, I am not sure where that
leaves me. There are one or two things that have come up in previous
responses. I was a little bit concerned, Sir Michael, when you
said that you thought there were currently 12 flats commercially
rented outside the security cordon and you hoped that would soon
be 17. My understanding is these flats become free when people
die for the most part.
(Sir Michael Peat) We do not employ Dr Shipman. No,
as people retire, so we can see a retirement date.
213. You have retirements coming up?
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes.
214. The second thing you said, and I am not
quite sure where it fits in, was you were building a new gallery
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes.
215. Is that in one of the Palaces in Edinburgh?
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes, the Palace of Holyrood House.
216. So that is not one of the Palaces that
you are looking after?
(Sir Michael Peat) No. The English occupied Royal
Palaces are dealt with by this grant-in-aid.
217. That is still paid for by the Royal Collection
(Sir Michael Peat) The Palace of Holyrood House is
maintained by Historic Scotland, who pay for the basic maintenance
in the same way that DCMS pay for the basic maintenance of the
English occupied Palaces, but just as the Royal Collection Trust
is paying for the new gallery at Buckingham Palace, it is paying
for the new gallery at Holyrood.
218. And that is in some way reducing the grant-in-aid
through some Scottish funding?
(Sir Michael Peat) I suppose it is. Because it is
paying for the new gallery, it is relieving the Scottish Office,
now the Scottish Parliament, from having to pay for it.
219. Thank you. Can you perhaps give us an example,
Mr Young, of a nationally owned property into which visitors are
coming and paying charges?
(Mr Young) English Heritage properties or the unoccupied
palaces managed by Historic Royal Palaces. They would be the two
5 Note: See Evidence, Appendix 5, p.44-46 for
the memorandum. However, the job descriptions have not yet been
Note: See Evidence, Appendix 5, p.44-46 for the memorandum.
However, the job descriptions have not yet been received. Back
Note: See Evidence, Appendix 5, p.44-46. Back