MPs are calling for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to “quickly” pay back the £2.4 million of public money spent renovating their Windsor home, after they signed a multi-million pound deal with Netflix.
Harry and Meghan are coming under pressure to “give up” Frogmore Cottage, their UK bolthole, after they agreed to make films and television programmes for the subscription network for a rumoured £100 million.
The couple, who recently bought an £11 million home in Santa Barbara with a £7.5 million mortgage, are in the process of paying back the £2.4 million at a rate of £18,000 a month, meaning it will take them 11 years to repay the British taxpayer.
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, deputy chair of parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, said that agreement should be “modified to pay the money back earlier”.
“I’ve read all the facts of the case and clearly anyone who has borrowed taxpayers’ cash needs to pay it back as quickly as possible.
“£2.4 million is a lot of money and even if you paid back £250,000 a year it would still take a decade."
The Tory MP for the Cotswolds added: “If the figures associated with the Netflix deal are correct then there is a case for it being paid back over five years rather than more than 10.
“These sorts of sums are out of the reach of the vast majority of people in this country who have been trying to make ends meet during the coronavirus crisis.
“While they may be sympathetic to Harry and Meghan’s situation, which is a delicate one, they will think that if the couple aren’t carrying out royal duties - and are making a lot of money in America, then they should start paying it back sooner.”
Fellow Conservative Bim Afolami, a former member of the Committee, which scrutinises public spending, agreed, saying: “If the Royal Family wants to subsidise Harry and Meghan that’s fine but the state should not pay for that. Now they are no longer working Royals and living in California, there’s no justification for it. They need to pay the money back now.”
The couple’s move to the US has also prompted questions over the future of Frogmore Cottage on the Windsor estate, where they lived for just eight months before announcing they were stepping down as senior Royals in January.
Situated in front of a lake, Frogmore House, where the couple hosted their wedding reception in May 2018, the Grade-II five-bedroom property underwent extensive remodelling to turn five properties back into a single mansion before the couple moved there in April 2019.
Following a summit at Sandringham to work out the terms of their so-called “Megxit’ deal, it was decided that they would keep the Berkshire bolthole as their UK home by continuing to rent it from its owner, the Queen.
On Saturday night, royal commentator Phil Dampier questioned why Harry and Meghan could not stay at Highgrove House, Prince Charles’s Gloucestershire home, when visiting the UK, freeing up Frogmore Cottage for another Royal or their staff.
“The place has been done up to a very high standard. If they are not going to be spending very much time back in the UK, it seems ridiculous for it to lay empty,” he said.
He suggested Princess Beatrice or Princess Eugenie, who have both recently married and whose parents the Duke and Duchess of York, live nearby at Royal Lodge, Windsor, could be interested in renting the property.
Eugenie and her husband are currently living with Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson but have a small cottage at Kensington Palace, while Beatrice and her husband Edoardo are understood to be living with his mother, as well as spending time at Beatrice's St James’s Palace apartment.
Sir Geoffrey said Frogmore Cottage may have been left available to the Sussexes so they would “feel welcome back in the UK” but added: “Clearly a conversation needs to take place to determine whether they will use it enough. If they can stay with other members of the family, then they should and allow the property to be rented to someone else.”
A spokesman for the Sussexes was approached for comment.