MPs grill Prince Charles’ financial advisers

Associated Press

London, February 8:

Financial advisers to Prince Charles faced tough questioning from UK lawmakers, but refused to let the government’s spending watchdog review the finances of the Prince.

Officials from the Duchy of Cornwall, the estate that provides the heir to the throne with income for his private and public activities, made a rare appearance yesterday before a panel of lawmakers in Parliament.

One member of the Public Accounts Committee, Alan Williams, said Charles “wins the national lottery every year,” after noting that the Duchy’s income was 22.3 million in the year ending March 31, 2004. That was up 20 per cent from the previous financial year, an increase that Duchy officials attributed to increased rental income.

Williams said the prince’s accommodation at Clarence House, a mansion in central London, and his use of Windsor Castle west of the capital, was “the best housing benefit scheme in the world.” Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office spending watchdog, sat in on the meeting and asked to examine the Duchy’s finances so he could report to Parliament.

The Prince of Wales’ estate is not required to open itself up to such scrutiny, and Bertie Ross, secretary of the Duchy of Cornwall, turned down the request.

“The Duchy of Cornwall income is private to the Prince of Wales.

Any business or estate that’s private should be able to choose its own audit,” Ross said.