We store cookies on your device to make sure we give you the best experience on this website. I'm fine with this - Turn cookies off
Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

Royal Jet Hypocrisy

January 24, 2005 8:37 PM

What does our MP spend his time doing, is it focusing on the concerns of Epsom & Ewell? Recently Epsom & Ewell's Tory MP Chris Grayling raised questions about why the Prime Minister and his family used an RAF plane, also used by the Royal Family. This led to the Conservatives being accused of hypocrisy.

Under the new Freedom of Information Act, Mr Grayling is asking about the extent of Tony Blair's use of the Queen's Flight since 1997 and how much he has paid towards it. The Conservatives suspect a pattern in which Mr Blair timetables a small amount of official business into his holiday plans in order to justify using the official aircraft.

This year Mr Blair met the Egyptian president and made official visits to the kings of Jordan and Bahrain. In 2000 the Blair family used the Queen's Flight to travel between Tuscany and the south of France, with Mr Blair fitting in lunch with the European Union President and classifying the trip as official business.

However Labour Party chairman Ian McCartney accused the Conservatives of hypocrisy. He defended Tony Blair's decision to use the Queen's Flight to travel to Sharm el Sheikh for his family holiday in Egypt. Security officials had advised Mr Blair not to use a commercial flight.

He said "John Major and Margaret Thatcher used the Queen's Flight for overseas holidays throughout the time they were in office. Tony Blair is the first Prime Minister to use commercial flights for holidays, and he will continue to do so unless security advice prevents him, as it did on this occasion."

The Prime Minister is entitled to use the RAF flights (which cost more than £8,000 an hour) but must pay part of the cost unless he travels wholly on official business. Downing Street said Mr Blair paid the equivalent of a commercial flight because he conducted some official business.

Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Jonathan Lees said "The Tories and Labour seem to spend their time trading insults with each other and looking for holes. Surely Mr Grayling's time would be better spent on serving his local constituents?"