Taxpayers foot pounds 500,000 clothes bill for royal visits

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The Independent Online
An Independent analysis of royal trips over the last four years shows that clothing bills could account for as much as one-fifth of the pounds 2.5 million cost to the taxpayer of official visits - a bill of around pounds 500,000 picked up by the Foreign Office.

It is not uncommon for royal parties to spend more than pounds 4,000 on clothing for an official trip, regardless of the distance and time spent abroad.

Labour MPs last night called for limits to be imposed on royal clothing bills paid for by the taxpayer.

Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Secretary, told Labour MP Tony Banks earlier this month that when Princess Alexandra went to the United States on a four-day visit in October-November 1993, the clothing bill "for the whole party" came to pounds 4,950 - out of a total bill for items including travel, gifts, salaries, post and other charges of pounds 24,800.

The Princess's official engagements "included a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a reception and dinner hosted by the American Associates of the Royal Academy, and a visit to the British American Chamber of Commerce,'' Mr Rifkind said.

In another answer to Mr Banks this month, Mr Rifkind said that when Prince Charles made an official visit to Los Angeles "in order to support the UK-Los Angeles festival" before flying on to Hong Kong to make a speech "at the opening of the World Congress on Urban Growth and the Environment" and other engagements, the clothing bill "for the whole party" came to pounds 6,400 for a trip costing pounds 53,300.

Of a dozen visits examined by The Independent, following questions put by Mr Banks, it appears that the Foreign Office picked up clothing bills of more than pounds 55,000 for trips costing a total of pounds 285,000, or 20 per cent of the total cost.

A Labour campaigner, Alan Williams, said last night: "I can understand visits to various climates can put a strain on their wardrobes, but there should be some form of clothing allowance, within which they have to operate. These figures suggest there is very little control; it's certainly better than an account at Marks and Spencer."

The Foreign Secretary told Mr Banks in July: "High profile and worthy representation of Britain abroad inevitably involves additional expenditure on clothes by members of the Royal Family and certain of those accompanying them.

"It is right that such expenditure should be met by the Government for visits undertaken at our request."

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said last night that he doubted whether the taxpayer picked up the bill for Mr Rif- kind's clothes when he made high-profile visits abroad.

Cost of glamour, page 3

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