Ministers and Transport

The Bliars used HM's flight (the Royal Squadron) to fly on their hols, to the cost of £30K to the taxpayer. It is claimed that they repaid the cost of the flight, but at commercial rates, and I can imagine the following exchange of views:

TB: Err, look Cherie, we have to pay towards the cost of the flight you know...

CB: I don't care Tony. If that b!tch Laura Bush gets to swan around the world in an Air Force One then so should I. And as for the old bag in the Palace...she isn't even elected like I am, I mean like you are!

TB: Look, Cherie, if we don't pay something then I could get kicked out in 2005 and you know we want that nice big London house...

CB: Alright, we'll pay. Now let me do the sums. We were the first passengers to book weren't we?

TB: Yes. Unless you count the pilot...

CB: So we get a special rate then! We'll pay them the EasyJet price - £1 each.

TB: Well, if you think so...

CB: But we'll only pay one way - we're not made of money you know!

As for the rest of them: Straw is beyond contempt for anything. Beckett looks like Medusa the Gorgon and would cause a cataclysmic slump in airline bookings. Nevertheless, as Environment Secretary, she should have taken the broomstick.

Medusa the Gorgon (topless)

Beckett the Gorgon (fully clothed thankfully)

The only one to emerge with any credit is Two Jags, who normally flies scheduled airlines for his globetrotting. Mind you, it's still posh for him flying first class after his stint belowdecks! :twisted:

Perhaps ministers should look to the leader of the Free World for inspiration:

Blairs' Red Sea holiday costs taxpayer £30,000
By Andrew Sparrow, Political Correspondent
(Filed: 22/07/2005)

Tony Blair's winter family holiday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh cost the taxpayer nearly £30,000, Downing Street disclosed yesterday.

The Prime Minister combined his trip with diplomatic talks in Egypt and Jordan and the state had to pay because Mr Blair and his family used the exclusive Royal Flight.

The Blairs made a contribution, equivalent to paying for air tickets at a commercial rate, but the visit cost the taxpayer £28,683 because the full cost of the Royal Flight was much higher.

The Tories demanded more details of how much the Blairs paid for their week-long visit to Egypt following the release of information showing the cost of travel by Cabinet ministers from April 2004 to March 2005.

Mr Blair's visit to Egypt was included in the list because he combined his holiday with talks with the Egyptian president and the king of Jordan.

The Blairs, who normally travel on commercial flights when travelling abroad on holiday, flew to Sharm el-Sheikh using one of the Royal Flight planes which are available for use by ministers and members of the Royal Family.

Although Downing Street said the Blairs "paid for their travel costs at the commercial rate", Chris Grayling, the shadow leader of the Commons called for more details. "Is it £150 for an EasyJet fare, or is it the equivalent of having your own private jet?" he asked.

"It is hard to help but suspect that the Prime Minister pencilled in a number of business meetings in order to charge the cost of his winter holiday to the taxpayer."

The chart showed that Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, was the most regular user of the Royal Flight. He used it 27 times.

But there was some surprise at Westminster over Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, being the second most frequent passenger. She used the aircraft 18 times, flying mostly to Brussels and Luxembourg, taking scheduled flights on just six occasions.

Her spokesman said using the Royal Flight was cost effective because Mrs Beckett saved on hotel bills by flying home after late night meetings.

In a separate move, Downing Street also published details of all declarable ministerial gifts received during the last year. Ministers are allowed to keep gifts worth less than £140.

Those worth more have to be declared. Ministers can either pay for them and keep them, or hand them over to officials as government property.

Of the 24 presents given to Mr Blair, he chose to buy three of them: a £175 porcelain dish from the Turkish government; a £145 brooch from the Czech government; and two watches worth £350 from Italy.

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