Sir Michael Peat, keeper of the privy purse and a former partner at KPMG, told the Commons Public Accounts Committee that Sir John ‘would do an excellent job’ auditing the Royal Collection Trust Fund, but wondered why the Trust was being picked out from among other charities for this treatment.
However, he was pressed by the Committee to agree, should parliament decide to set up the audit by statute.
During the parliamentary debate MPs voiced concern over the use made of revenue totalling Pounds 10.8m received from visitors to Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. The buildings were originally opened for a few weeks in the summer by the Queen to raise money to pay for repair and restoration work following the Windsor fire.
Allan Williams, the senior Labour MP on the Committee, protested at one point saying: ‘What is happening is that increasing sums of money are sliding into the Royal Palaces in a way, which is not accountable to parliament’
‘At a time when this committee is fighting for greater accountability, I find that unacceptable,’ Williams said.
But David Davis, Tory chairman of the Public Accounts Committee issued a statement in which he claimed the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee’s new right of direct access to the records of the royal household had ‘worked well’. He also acknowledged the efforts made by the royal household to reduce the costs to the taxpayer of the royal palaces.
The Committee’s report paid tribute to the royal household for reducing from Pounds 29m to Pounds 15m, in real terms, the amount it required in aid grants from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
It said income from visitors – described as belonging to the Queen – went into the Royal Collection Trust Fund, which is not accountable to parliament. Part of the income is used for the maintenance of Windsor Castle and the rest goes towards looking after the Royal Collection.
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