1 JUNE 1991, Page 20

Family silver

NOW for my Downing Street wheeze. It is all that such wheezes should be, patriotic, headline-grabbing, no cost to the Treasury — are you with me, Gus, Sarah? It would also save the Major family from having to use plastic knives and forks. Their trouble is that Downing Street has no silver. No doubt some earlier family sold it. Margaret Thatcher arranged to borrow the Brownlow family silver from Belton Hall, but it belongs to the National Trust, which now wants it back. My wheeze starts by observ- ing that the silver bullion price fell in May to its lowest for 17 years, and that £1 mil- lion would buy you 427,000 fine ounces, or something like 12 tons, which should be enough for a fair-sized dinner party. All we now need is for the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths to commission the Downing Street silver from the best of British design- ers. The Goldsmiths are quite rich enough to pay for it themselves, but if they prefer to bring in a sponsor, the obvious name presents itself: Gerald Ratner.