Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Ministerial Residences

In the United States there is the White House; Camp David; Number One Observatory Circle for the Vice President - in the UK there are a number of ministerial residences.

Number 10 Downing Street contains a residential flat, as does Number 11. Number 10 was originally offered as a personal gift to Sir Robert Walpole, which he declined for himself but accepted as a residence for the First Lord of the Treasury [now the formal title held by the person popularly known as the 'Prime Minister']. Number 11 has been the official residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer since 1828, though Brown and Blair swopped flats in 1997.

The official country residence of the Prime Minister is Chequers, an Elizabethan mansion which was bequeathed to the nation in 1917 by Sir Arthur Lee MP, a soldier, diplomat & politician (and husband of an American heiress)who eventually became Viscount Lee of Fareham (1868-1947). It rests at the foot of the Chilterns not far from Princes Risborough.

Chevening in Kent has become the country residence of the Foreign Secretary, although the Earl of Stanhope left it to the nation in 1967 on condition that 'it was occupied by either the Prime Minister of the day, a Cabinet Minister or a descendant of King Charles VI'. It is a 115 room mansion in an estate of 3,500 acres near Sevenoaks. Some people believe that it was designed by Inigo Jones.

Dorneywood in Buckinghamshire has been regarded as the country residence of Chancellors of the Exchequer, though Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott had use of it between 1999 and 2006. It is built in the Queen Anne style, but only in 1920. It has provoked mixed feelings - a former Deputy Director of the Conservative Research Department wrote in a letter to the Times - "Then (1950s), no one seemed to want it. Anthony Eden lived there briefly, but spent most of his weekends on the telephone to Chequers bickering with Churchill over foreign policy. Harold Macmillan, the next in line, turned it down. Eventually, however, it won the heart of Willie Whitelaw, even though Alan Clark, visiting him in 1986, ticked him off rudely for liking "this dreary redbrick house in flat country". However the BBC reported that, "When Alec Douglas-Home became prime minister in 1963 he was said to be reluctant to forsake the property for the antique surroundings of Chequers."
In London there are three ministerial flats in Admiralty House and Number 1 Carlton Gardens is regarded as the official London residence of the Foreign Secretary.

Hillsborough Castle, a mansion located in County Down, is the official residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

According to this week's Sunday Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/08/12/nhomes112.xml the allocation of residences has not yet been finalised, claiming "When ministers return from the summer recess, a scramble for properties reminiscent of the most cut-throat battles of the Monopoly board will commence."

The House of Commons Library has published a paper on ministerial residences which is available at http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/notes/snpc-03367.pdf