Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160
WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2002
MOTTRAM KCB, SIR
KCVO AND MR
160. Would they charter a large plane of the
kind that the Queen took to South Korea or the Prince of Wales
took to the Caribbean?
(Sir Richard Mottram) I do not know; it is not my
responsibility. I am not accountable for that. The Cabinet Office
would be accountable for that.
161. Sir Michael, have you looked at all at
that? I am trying to think of an equivalent and I imagine that
the Prime Minister flying around is a bit like the Queen flying
around. Would the Prime Minister charter large planes?
(Sir Michael Peat) I do not know.
Mr Osborne: I remember he took Concorde to a
meeting a few years ago. I do not know whether he would pay full
cost for a Concorde flight . . .
Chairman: They are not going to be able to answer
162. On the chartering of flights, you mentioned
that the Queen was going to take a scheduled flight to Australia
but that was cancelled because the meeting was cancelled. She
did indeed fly First Class to Australia a couple of years ago.
When do you take a decision to use a charter plane and when do
you take a decision to go on a scheduled flight. You took a big
charter plane to South Korea; Australia you flew on a scheduled
(Sir Michael Peat) Because when the Queen is going
to Australia and New Zealand, which are realms, generally the
party is smaller because she is going there as Queen of Australia,
Queen of New Zealand or for Commonwealth work, as she was on this
occasion. So there is not normally the same size party as for
an overseas state visit and there are appropriate carriers and
also for longer flights it is easier because disruption caused
to other travellers is more proportionate. With all the security
and other issues when the Queen flies on a scheduled flight and
everything that has to be done in the airport, it is not really
worth it for short-haul flights is the view which has always been
taken. For longer ones it may well be.
163. I am thinking really in terms of your own
budget. For example, on the trip to South Korea where it cost
£0.25 million to charter the plane was it really not worth
buying her a section of the First Class cabin, putting officials
in the back and making the journalists make their own way there?
(Sir Michael Peat) The issue is that they do not fit
in and very often the aircraft is used in theatre when you get
there. If you go to Canada or Australia or New Zealand their Air
Force might well provide a plane to use at the other end. All
these issues are quite complicated but you can see from the figures
that we really do take cost into account and we do choose the
most cost effective option.
164. When you use scheduled flights, what class
do the staff of the Royal Household fly?
(Sir Michael Peat) If a member of the Royal Family
is there and is flying First Class the private secretary can accompany
in First Class and the rest go behind is how it works.
165. In Business Class?
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes; Business Class. If the journey
is less than three hours it is economy class. If the journey is
more than three hours, the Foreign Office rules which we follow
are that you can go Business Class.
166. We have gone over the ground quite a lot
on the royal train. There does seem to be a slight contradiction
in what you are saying which is that the train is a very useful
piece of equipment in that it gets you there on time, you can
do early morning engagements, you can turn up in the middle of
the town, yet you do not use it. Either it is useful or it is
not useful. From the evidence of use, you do not find many occasions
when you want to use the train.
(Sir Michael Peat) It is not correct to say we do
not use it: we used it on 17 occasions. We only use it when we
feel comfortable that the not negligible cost is justified.
167. Sometimes you take the train out and you
(Sir Michael Peat) You generally have to do that because
the train can normally only run overnight. It cannot go fast enough
to keep up with the normal services on the main lines.
168. For example when the Queen and Duke of
Edinburgh went to the opening of the National Assembly for Wales,
which would have been a very exciting occasion for them, they
turned up in the royal train and then they flew back.
(Sir Michael Peat) And the Prince of Wales.
169. Would you count the cost of the overall
journey with the royal train?
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes.
170. The cost of bringing it back to London.
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes, all our options. Because there
were three of them flying, it would have been difficult then anyhow.
171. You have been very non-committal, and I
appreciate that, about the future of the royal train. You said
you wanted to have a look at it after the Jubilee. If you were
a gambling man, do you think the train will be here in three years'
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes, I very much hope so, because
we have been through the train's advantages on a number of occasions
this afternoon and it does have considerable advantages. I am
sure that no-one would want the royal train to disappear because
it has those advantages. Our job, which we have been doing for
the last four years, is to try to provide the service as economically
as we can for the taxpayer.
Mr Osborne: As someone who travels to Cheshire
every week, I would have thought most people who had a choice
of a helicopter flight or a train journey would take the helicopter
flight. Sadly I do not have the choice.
172. May I start by mentioning that on the first
page we see that the expenditure has gone down from £17-odd
million in1997-98 to £5.4 million last year? Notwithstanding
any creative accountancy, that does nonetheless seem quite a substantial
reduction and can encourage us to continue pursuing the sorts
of arguments for further savings, would you not say?
(Sir Michael Peat) I am baffled because the saving
was achieved before we had any argument or discussion.
173. Yes, that is right, but not since Mr Williams
and others started probing this and related areas. It has really
been as a result of the investigations instigated by this Committee
that these savings have been brought about.
(Sir Michael Peat) It has not at all. I have done
it and I can assure you that I am flattered that Mr Williams should
want to take credit for what the Household have done, but we have
done it ourselves and we have done it on our own initiative because
it is the Queen's clear wish that we should be as economical and
as effective as we can be.
(Sir Richard Mottram) The key to this change was actually
the decision which was taken to put the Household in charge of
this money. That was the key to it, the decision was really taken
(Sir Michael Peat) I wrote to the Treasury on 10 October
1995 to put forward this proposal, basically in the form that
it was adopted. I have to say that at that stage I did not know
that Mr Williams had any interest in this area at all.
174. It is very gratifying to hear that these
steps were being taken anyway. You would be astonished how many
times we find that when organisations have been invited to meet
the National Audit Office and ourselves they had actually already
been thinking of making substantial savings and then lo and behold
by the time they come to see us the savings have been made. We
are just glad that you had thought of this anyway and should obviously
get the credit for it. May I turn to Appendix 2 and ask some questions?
Some of my colleagues have asked about the size of parties attending.
Looking at the first example which gives total party size and
then reason for choice of option which is cost and suitability
for long-haul flight for 50+ passengers and luggage, I am not
clear how 38 becomes 50+. Are there people who are not covered
in the total party size who are however covered in some other
(Sir Michael Peat) The British Airways staff for example.
An aircraft has to have a crew.
175. Indeed. It is somewhat unorthodox though
to talk about a party size as including the crew of the vehicle.
Even in the bottom one on that page where the Princess Royal with
a party of three takes a charter flight that presumably does not
include the pilot.
(Sir Michael Peat) No. Party size is the royal party
size. Very often you have to have a larger aircraft than the royal
party size because you have to take the crew and all the rest
176. If anybody has every hired a bus, you normally
take the fact that there is going to be a driver into account
rather than drawing lots in some way. Could you possibly give
us a list in a note at a subsequent time of the 38 and who they
were and what they did and so on? We have discussed some of it
but I am still not entirely clear. Is that possible?
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes. Which one are we on?
177. The first one, the visit to the Republic
(Sir Michael Peat) Certainly, we can do that.
178. Further down that page is Staff (The Queen
and the Duke of Edinburgh), ten, and it says the cheapest option
was chosen. What class is that?
(Sir Michael Peat) We follow the Foreign Office guidelines
and Household staff are allowed to go Business Class if the flight
is more than three hours.
179. What class do they go if the flight is
less than three hours?
(Sir Michael Peat) Normal economy.
3 Ev 23, Appendix 1. Back