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EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 18 December, 2002, 23:45 GMT
Queen to pay Kents' rent
The Kents at Buckingham Palace
The Kents currently pay around 69 per week
The Queen is to allow Prince and Princess Michael of Kent to live rent free in Kensington Palace while footing the bill herself, the palace has announced.

Buckingham Palace confirmed the Queen was to cover the rent on her cousin and his wife's apartment from her own private income for seven years.

After that it is thought the couple will retire to their other home in Gloucestershire.

The move follows criticism of the amount paid by minor royals for their homes - subsidised by the taxpayer - in a city where many key workers often cannot afford accommodation.

The Queen is conscious of her long-standing commitment to accommodate Prince and Princess Michael at Kensington Palace

Buckingham Palace

But former Buckingham Palace spokesman Dickie Arbiter said the Queen would not like to see the couple removed from the Palace, after granting them the apartment as a wedding present.

"I think she probably feels an obligation, having offered them the premises and offered the accommodation nearly 30 years ago.

"It is family and she wouldn't like to see them turfed out.

Five bedrooms

"At the end of the day [the duke] does have directorships in London, he does do some charitable work and he does do state occasions when called upon by the Queen," he told the BBC.

It is believed the prince and princess currently pay a 69 per week "maintenance charge" for the apartment.

Kensington Palace
The whole palace may eventually open to the public
Instead, the Queen will pay 60,000 for the first year, 2003-04, and thereafter 120,000 a year.

A spokeswoman said the rent on the apartment would be paid into government funds, known as grant-in-aid, used to maintain occupied royal palaces.

Their accommodation comprises five reception rooms, five bedrooms and seven utility rooms, including kitchen and bathrooms, as well as a four-room office.

The palace said the Queen's gesture recognised "all the effective work that they [the Kents] do for many charities, and for undertaking a number of royal engagements at their expense".

Buckingham Palace said: "The Queen is conscious of her long-standing commitment to accommodate Prince and Princess Michael at Kensington Palace.

"It is for this reason that she has agreed to pay rent from her own funds for up to seven years."

The palace also disclosed that the Queen will pay Prince and Princess Michael a pension when they retire.

Public criticism

Public criticism over the Kents' apartment followed scrutiny by the House of Commons Public Accounts committee on the cost of royal palaces and whether they were value for money.

It called on the Queen to evict its residents and put the apartments on a more commercial footing.

The palace also announced on Wednesday that the late Princess Margaret's apartment in Kensington Palace is to be opened to the public.

It will be an education centre, with exhibition space made for the royal ceremonial dress collection.

No decision has yet been taken on the future of the main rooms of Princess Diana's former apartment at Kensington Palace.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Jenny Bond
"The Queen it seems may have struck quite a shrewd deal"
  Alan Williams MP, Labour
"It's not a market rent"

Talking PointFORUM
 Royal rent saga
Put questions to Royal expert, Hugo Vickers
See also:

30 Jun 02 | Politics
16 Jun 02 | Politics
13 Jun 02 | Politics
13 Jun 02 | Politics
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