Monday, March 31, 2014

Ending princely privilege

On Friday a UK cross-party committee suggested ending royal vetoes over legislation. And now its gone from a suggestion to a bill:

Prince Charles is facing a Westminster campaign to strip him and his estate of special privileges including tax exemptions, a power of veto over new laws and immunity from legislation covering everything from squatting to planning.

A radical bill is to be put before the House of Lords proposing to remove special treatment of the prince and the Duchy of Cornwall, his inherited £800m estate that provides him with a £19m a year private income.

The move, by the old-Etonian Labour peer Lord Berkeley, also exposes little-known exemptions from laws enforced on everyone else by at least eight acts of parliament.

In his capacity as the Duke of Cornwall, the prince cannot be prosecuted for breaches of planning laws such as building without permission or breaking the terms of planning consents, which would normally attract fines of up to £50,000. The prince's estate also enjoys an exemption from people registering land under squatters' rights or other forms of "adverse possession" until they have occupied it for 60 years, compared with 10 years for other landowners. Neither is it obliged to allow Duchy leaseholders to buy their freeholds.

Plus of course he doesn't have to pay tax like the peasants do.

The bill would end all of that, and remove Charles Windsor's medieval privileges. And good riddance to them! The idea that someone should be beyond the reach of the law simply by dint of his birth has no place in a modern democracy, and the sooner the practice is ended, the better.