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Thursday, 13 June, 2002, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
Royal rent sparks MPs' anger
Kensington Palace
The Kents rent an apartment in Kensington Palace
A tour of Kensington Palace - where minor royals including Prince and Princess Michael of Kent pay a "peppercorn" rent to live - has sparked anger among MPs.

They claim it is "an outrage" that they should reside in such a prestigious London address while teachers and nurses are forced to live in "cubicles".


Some people living in them are not even paying rent

Alan Williams
The Kents pay 115 a week for a five-bedroom apartment despite the fact they carry out no official Royal duties.

The House of Commons Public Accounts committee, spent three hours inspecting the luxurious abode to assess whether the taxpayer - who pays 15m a year towards it - is getting value for money.

They are now calling for the Queen to evict the palace's VIP residents and to put the apartments on a more commercial footing.

Hint, hint

Committee chairman Edward Leigh said it would not surprise him if the Kents, who also own a large home in Gloucestershire, were given their marching orders out of the palace.

"It is not in my power or the power of Parliament to chuck anybody out, but I wouldn't be surprised if some time over the next few months or the next couple of years, there is a little polite tea-party with Prince Michael and maybe a hint is dropped," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

But Swansea West MP Alan Williams, a committee member, was more forthright.

Edward Leigh
Mr Leigh said he hoped palace residents would 'do the decent thing'
Asked if he thought it was a scandal that the Kents paid such a low rent, he retorted: "That is an understatement.

"Think of all the anguish of people working in the public service - people who cannot afford to live in even tiny apartments - and we are having to look for cubicles in which to put our teachers and nurses."

Public opinion

Labour's Ian Davidson stressed: "What we have discovered here is an outrage and when we report as such, I expect things to move.

"I think the public opinion can now sway her (the Queen) on this.

"I have been chasing royal finances for 10 years and my experience is that when they are under pressure - they move."

Sir Michael Peat, Keeper of the Privy Purse, led the tour of Kensington Palace - once the home of the late Princess Diana - but excluded visits to the royals' private apartments.

The committee had asked to have a look at the Kents' accommodation but that request was turned down.

'Smokescreen'

Instead they inspected the apartment occupied by Sir Michael, who pays rent of 45,000 a year.

Mr Leigh, a Tory MP, said the finances of the palace showed a deficit of 200,000.

MPs had been told that the long term aim for the palace was to empty it and remove the security cordon so it was open to the public, he said.

But Mr Williams described the remarks as a smokescreen. The committee had been unable to get Sir Michael to disclose the timescale.

Mr Leigh expressed his hope that palace residents would "do the decent thing".

Departure time?

"I am sure that those people who live here can understand the public concern about it," he said.

Earlier, he told Today: "I am going in with an open mind, but if we believe at the end of this that we are not getting value for money - after all, the taxpayer spends about 15m a year on these royal palaces - we will so report."

But Mr Williams said: "We asked if vacating would mean 10,15 or 20 years, but we could not get an answer.

"They say they are planning to vacate this palace - I think they are planning to vacate it when it falls down."

Public purse

He added: "Some people living in them are not even paying rent. What they pay simply covers the electricity and other charges and it's about time we moved on this."

The visit by the MPs will renew focus on the number of Royals who benefit either directly or indirectly from the public purse.

It comes in the wake of what Buckingham Palace regards as a hugely successful celebrations for the Queen's Golden Jubilee.

The arrangement with the Kents was made soon after their wedding in 1979 and the Queen did "not want to go back on that commitment", a spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said.

See also:

13 Jun 02 | UK Politics
12 Jun 02 | UK Politics
04 Jun 02 | UK
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