Labour Peer Seeking To Make Duchy More Accountable

Lord Berkeley in the House of Lords

Lord Berkeley in the House of Lords

A Labour peer with strong connections to Scilly is trying to bring in legislation that would alter the status of the Duchy of Cornwall.

Lord Berkeley, who is a key member of the islands’ transport campaign group FRIST, introduced a private member’s bill last week. It could force the Duchy of Cornwall to decide whether it is a private or public body.

The peer believes that Duchy assets could be moved to a public trust, like a housing association.

Lord Berkeley said he first became aware of problems with the Duchy when they put an oyster bed into the Helford River several years ago. He said they didn’t need to do an environmental assessment, and the Duchy’s representative was quoted at the time as saying they’re “not democratically accountable in any meaningful sense.”

He feels that the Duchy should comply with public body obligations on environmental studies, housing policies and paying taxes.

More money could be put back into the estate to help people with high rents and Lord Berkeley thinks that Prince Charles’ payment of £15m, from a £22m turnover, is “fairly excessive.”

There needs to be more transparency and the Duchy should have to answer freedom of information requests. And he says he has discussed the issues widely with islanders.

There’s a month before the next session of parliament discusses the bill and he hopes to engage with the Duchy before then. The bill stemmed from wider reform to allow the child of the heir to the throne to eventually become monarch, if it’s a girl.

Tony says the main purpose of this part of the bill is to start a debate on Duchy reform, and he hopes people will be able to express their views “without feeling they’ll be unfairly treated by the Duchy if they do.”

A Clarence House spokesperson says they won’t comment on the matter.

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