UK watchdog looking into Queen Elizabeth's finances

A recent change in the law gave the British parliament oversight of the royal finances.

A British government watchdog panel is expected to probe into Queen Elizabeth's finances and expenses to determine whether taxpayers are getting a fair return for the money they give to support the royal family, according to U.K. media reports.

The royal family is financed mainly by public money, and the amount of public funds going to it is soaring despite government spending cuts. In April Buckingham Palace will receive 36.1 million pounds ($56.6 million) to fund the queen’s official duties, up 16 percent from the 31 million pounds ($48.6 million) paid by taxpayers last year, according to The Telegraph.

The monarchy has often been described as an expensive institution, and some observers complain its finances have been shrouded in confusion and secrecy. A recent change in the law for the first time gives members of Parliament oversight of royal finances.

The Public Accounts Committee, a powerful House of Commons panel responsible for overseeing government expenditures to ensure they are effective and honest, is expected to scrutinize the queen's expenditures to determine whether the monarch and the royal family provide value for money to the taxpayer, The Telegraph says.

The committee will focus on the queen's use of public money to perform her official duties, including official receptions, investitures, garden parties and maintenance of the royal palaces, according to the Daily Mail.

The committee will decide on the scope of the inquiry after national auditors are granted access to the queen’s finances next month, according to The Telegraph.

"I'm all in favor of it," Austin Mitchell, a Labour MP who sits on the committee, was quoted as saying by the Telegraph. "It's not intrusive. It is about ensuring that the public are getting good value for money.

"At the moment there is no accountability for spending what is a considerable fortune."

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