William Nye’s appearance before one of Parliament’s more forceful committees was a masterclass in emollient blandness. Prince Charles’s Principal Private Secretary – called upon to elucidate his master’s financial affairs – smoothed MPs’ ruffled feathers with the suavity that is perhaps to be expected from a lifelong courtier, but is no less remarkable for all that.
What Mr Nye did not do, however, is lay to rest the fundamental question dogging the Duchy of Cornwall – the estate-cum-business from which the heir to the throne draws his private income. If Google et al are open to criticism for their obfuscatory (yet entirely legal) accounting, are the arrangements by which the Duchy escapes both corporation and capital gains tax any more acceptable? Mr Nye’s urbane performance was unsatisfactory because there is only one possible answer: they are absolutely not.