By Ray Fleming
l PRINCE Charles must sometimes wish he could just pack it all in and live a comfortable quiet life without people poking their noses into his public and private affairs. The latest incursion has been from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee which has been looking into the way his private finances are arranged and, in particular, whether he gets tax breaks not available to others. The focus has been on the accounts of the Duchy of Cornwall which consists of 56'000 hectares of prime residential, commercial and agricultural land across several English counties. It was created by Edward III in 1337 to secure his son's financial independence; Edward was a canny investor because the Duchy now provides the current son of the monarch with a handsome personal income whose level, within limits, Prince Charles can determine for himself. Last year, for instance, he drew 13.3 million pounds from the Duchy, four times the amount he took in 1993; however, the Duchy has risen in value from 110 million pounds ten years ago to 505 millions today. One of the complaints of the Public Accounts Committee was that Prince Charles has no statutory duty to protect the finances of the Duchy for future generations. Another was that although the Duchy engages, commendably, in commercial enterprises such as “Duchy Originals” (the Prince's organic food range) it still benefits from exemption from capital gains tax and corporation tax. The Duchy has become a big business but does not compete in a strictly business environment.
This problem reflects another difficulty that arises from Prince Charles' wish to make his views known on all manner of subjects without accepting that to do so creates an unlevel playing field for others with different ideas. Prince Charles often wants to be influential in the nation's everyday life without being an everyday kind of person. Sometimes he is entitled to have things both ways, but not always, and he should be more sensitive to when privilege can be exercised acceptably and when not.

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