“A BILL TO Amend the Sovereign Grant Act 2011; to amend the succession to the title of the Duke of Cornwall; to re-distribute the Duchy of Cornwall’s estate; and to remove the requirement for a Parliament to obtain Queen’s or Prince’s consent to consideration of bills passing through Parliament.”The last part would remove Royal veto over a Bill’s progress rather than Royal Assent, but it looks like a further power grab by Parliament of the kind that Albert Burgess outlined in his lucid historical conspectus this morning.
It’s quite an assault on the Prince of Wales. Who’s behind it, and why?The Bill is sponsored by Lord Berkeley, a hereditary Baron who was returned to the Lords as a Life Peer after the House was reformed under New Labour. He was a Labour Whip and spokesperson for Transport prior to the 1997 General Election.
He is well-qualified to speak on transportation. Here are some of his offices mentioned in the House of Lords’ interests:Chairman, Rail Freight Group
Board Member, European Rail Freight Association
President, Aviation Environment Federation
President, United Kingdom Marine Pilots Association
President, Road Danger Reduction Forum
Vice President, Cycling Touring Club
Road, rail, air, sea… quite a list. The marine interest goes a little bit further:
Trustee, Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) (sustainability of the marine ecosystem)
Harbour Commissioner, Fowey Harbour Authority, Cornwall
That last is interesting. Lord Berkeley lives in Polruan (see note 3), near the mouth of the river Fowey. He will not be far from various interests of the Prince of Wales, who as Duke of Cornwall
“owns freehold about three-fifths of the Cornish foreshore and the 'fundus', or bed, of navigable rivers and has right of wreck on all ships wrecked on Cornish shores, including those afloat offshore.”
|Land and shore holdings of the Duchy of Cornwall|
This land ownership also used to include Fowey Harbour, but “the Harbour Commissioners own the fundus and foreshore purchasing from the Duchy of Cornwall in 1933.”
So Fowey is not directly beholden to the Prince and it would seem that there is little opportunity for a direct conflict of interests.But the maritime angle has a little more to it than that. In 2011, Lord Berkeley launched another Bill, the Marine Navigation Bill, which aimed to make or amend provisions for pilots, lighthouses and harbour authorities. This Bill would have affected the Prince’s interests and so James Whittle, Clerk to the Lords, wrote to Lord Berkeley on 6 September 2011 to alert him to the need to approach Clarence House for the Prince’s consent. The Bill never made it.
In the Spring of 2013, the noble Lord called for a “radical overhaul” of the Duchy and said “he wanted to see all money generated by the estate go towards Cornish people and not the heir to the throne,” so setting the common man against the Crown in a manner reminiscent of what Albert Burgess has told us of Asquith’s tour round Britain. It’s been some time since a socialist was so keen to see the people have control over their own money.Could it be that there is a short-sighted and destructive element of personal pique in this new, constitutionally significant initiative?