Palace tenants who occupy homes at Ruritanian rents: MPs' committee wants closer look at pounds 20m Queen's Household budget and grace and favour scheme. Stephen Goodwin reports

Click to follow
THIRTEEN retired army officers have grace and favour homes at Windsor Castle to enable them to perform duties of attending church services on Sunday in uniform, and cermonies of the Order of the Garter.

The 'Military Knights' are just one line in the Ruritanian roll call submitted to the PAC detailing who lives in the 285 apartments, houses and cottages at the occupied royal palaces.

Top of the list are members of the Royal Family, followed by private secretaries and officials in the Queen's Household. Homes are provided for the Mistress of the Robes, the Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, the Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps, the Sub-Dean of the Chapels Royal, the Insignia Clerk, the Royal Archivist, the Head Bookbinder in the Royal Library and his Deputy, the Armourer, the Messenger to the Yeoman of the Guard and a host of other exotic post- holders.

Beyond the Queen's Household, there are homes for domestic staff, stable hands, chauffeurs, gardeners, firemen, craftsmen, porters and pensioners. The last group includes a previous nanny to the Queen's children and the daughter of a wartime Chief of the General Staff.

Nearly all the palace tenants enjoy rents that, it is admitted, bear no relation to the cost of accommodation in central London, or such prestigious locations. If rents were based on market values 'nearly all the properties would be empty since staff would not be able to afford them', according to the Royal Household.

The PAC, which will be returning to the issue, was told that the primary means of taking the value of accommodation into account was by reducing the pay of the employee, although until April this had not been done on a consistent basis. Most of the pensioners live rent-free.

It has been agreed with the Treasury that future employees will have their pay abated by 16.7 per cent in line with civil servants in official accommodation. The estimated saving to public funds when this arrangement is fully implemented will be pounds 964,000 - almost twice the current figure.

(Photograph omitted)