The death of the 6th Duke of Westminster, a comment
When a 25-year old young man loses his father suddenly it can be a very traumatic event whatever class he belongs to and whatever his financial situation. It is a time of mourning mixed with trying to get used to life without your departed parent, possibly facing up to new responsibilities as a result of that death. For most working class people in that situation, the responsibilities include trying to put the financial affairs of the deceased into some kind of order, a job which often involves marvelling at how little your late father managed to amass for a lifetime of hard work.
Hugh Grosvenor has been spared much of that: yes, his father is dead and we are sure that he misses him and is grieving, but, his dad, Gerald, and an army of paid servants and legal brains have made sure that the late Duke of Westminster’s amazingly large estate is in order and has passed, with hardly a penny going to the taxman, into the hands of young Hugh, the 7th Duke of Westminster.
The young Duke, possibly the most eligible bachelor in the world now as the richest person in the world under the age of thirty, has been handed an estate worth £9 billion as an inheritance which would, if HM Revenue and Customs had collected the standard 40% death duty, have enriched the public purse to the tune of roughly £3-4 billion. Instead, because the old Duke had the majority of the estate put into a series of trusts, which are virtually tax exempt, the only payment is a charge that comes around every 10 years, amounting to just 6% of the trust holdings.
Hugh Grosvenor is now the third richest person in Britain (and the 68th richest billionaire in the world) thanks to the financially unscathed transfer of the family wealth to him. His grandfather was once the richest man in Britain thanks to another tax-dodging wheeze.
In 1944 the 4th Duke of Westminster was injured by an exploding enemy shell while commanding a regiment at the tail end of the Second World War. 23 years later, when the fourth Duke eventually died of cancer, the fifth Duke, Hugh’s grandfather, Robert Grosvenor, successfully argued, during a twelve-year legal battle, that the wound caused infections which later became the cancer which killed his brother. In this way, because UK law states that those who die in the service of their country do not have to pay any inheritance tax, death duty was avoided and Robert, though grieving for his brother we are sure, became at that time, 1970, the richest man in Britain.
The late sixth Duke of Westminster, Gerald Grosvenor, was by all accounts an astute businessman who through Grosvenor Estates was the richest property developer in the UK and one of the country’s largest landowners with property all over the country, including the family’s country seat ofEaton Hall, as well as 300 acres (0.47 sq mi) ofMayfair and Bel-gravia in Central London. The business also has vast interests in other parts of the world according to the Sunday Times Rich List 2016, but when asked about the incredible Grosvenor family fortune Gerald was candid enough to say that the secret of his business success was ” having an ancestor who had been good friends with William the Conqueror.”
Within capitalism a country’s laws are made to favour the rich in general and the incredibly rich in particular. The fact that the Grosvenors have broken no laws over the years with these tax avoidance shenanigans is proof enough of that. Every so often a less rich person will fall foul of a serious law and even an ultra-rich one may be held accountable for the odd petty law being broken as a show of equality under the law for the rest of us, but the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie will not allow any such thing as real equality under the law. Of course, the ultra-rich shouldn’t really need to steal anything, but robbery is the nature of capitalism and it is the biggest, most organised, robbers who rule us and decide on the laws while pouring scorn and vicious punishment on the starving pauper who takes bread to survive and who is, through real need, only following the exact same logic as the ‘astute’ businessman.
There are people, many of them from the middle class, who insist that taxes should be paid by all and that if just that one thing were to be done properly all within society would be well and the contradictions of capitalism would be resolved. A spokesman for the Tax Justice Network said of the Grosvenors’ latest scam: “The family has been at the forefront of the use of tax avoidance mechanisms,” adding ” If you are rich enough, you don’t face the tax bills the rest of us expect to pay.” They are demanding a new ‘Duke of Westminster Tax’ to stop mega-rich aristocrats passing on their estates to their heirs almost entirely tax-free. This of course is most unlikely to happen and we must agree with the much more realistic observation on capitalism of Chas Roy-Chowdhury of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants who said: ” I’d be surprised if they hadn’t found a way round inheritance tax issues. Otherwise as one of the richest families in the country how would they have kept the wealth ?”
There is no fairness or equality in capitalism and looking to achieve it is pointless. There is no alternative to capitalism except socialism leading to communism and anyone wishing to spend their life usefully in Britain would do well to join the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and help to carry out the work and study needed for this sane future to become a reality.