Queen urged to sell Buckingham Palace

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AS BUCKINGHAM Palace yesterday unveiled its 'sophisticated' and expensive collection of souvenirs for visitors to the state apartments, which open today for the second year, Labour's shadow heritage secretary, Mo Mowlam, offers a radical solution to the financial problems of the House of Windsor: sell the palace off and start again.

The Queen should be urged to move into a high-tech official residence designed by modern architects, Ms Mowlam says in an article in the Mail on Sunday. A new royal home could 'be representative of the age we live in' with 'a Conran kitchen with dried herbs and fine English wines, and restrained David Hicks for the interior'.

Other royal homes - such as Kensington Palace, the residence of Princess Diana, and Holyrood House, the Royal Family's Scottish retreat - could be paid for by those who live in them, Ms Mowlam adds. 'Only those properties that perform a useful public function need to be maintained at public expense, she says. 'If the Royal Family wishes to keep the rest, the Royal Family can pay for them.'

Ms Mowlam's proposal, which is unlikely to become Labour policy, comes as palace flunkies unveiled the range of souvenirs available to this year's tourist flock at the end of their 18-room tour of the palace. The highlight will be a limited edition carriage clock for pounds 495, five times more expensive than the dearest item last year.

The cheaper end of the range, criticised last year as 'tacky', remains with a set of postcards for pounds 2 and chocolates for pounds 3.

Last year the shop made pounds 800,000 on sales of pounds 2.75m. The price of the tour itself remains the same (adults pounds 8, over-60s pounds 5.50, under-17s pounds 4), and 400,000 visitors are expected before it closes on 2 October. About 379,000 visited last year and the tours raised pounds 2.2m towards the pounds 40m restoration of fire-damaged Windsor Castle.