A travel bill fit for a Queen: Middle East flights cost £356,000

The Queen last year reduced her cost to the British taxpayer by £1.8m, despite a substantial rise in the amount spent on royal travel.

Transporting the royals: click here for graphic (110Kb)

While Buckingham Palace insisted that a £2.1m rise in the cost of moving members of the House of Windsor around on official business was largely due to changes in leasing arrangements of the royal helicopter, even with that taken into account, the cost of royal travel rose £600,000 – or 11 per cent – to £6m. The most expensive journey was the state visit last November to the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh which cost £356,253. An official Foreign Office trip to India by the Prince of Wales and Camilla, whose overall cost to the British taxpayer grew by 17 per cent in 2010/11, according to Clarence House's annual accounts published last week, cost £298,089.

Meanwhile, the price of transporting Prince Andrew in his controversial role as a UK trade ambassador was more than £350,000. He made six official trips, including £121,810 spent flying the Prince and his party business class to Italy and Central Asia.

According to the Queen's official expenditure for 2010/11 published yesterday, it cost £50 a mile to use the royal train, compared to £17 by air. A particular favourite mode of transport of the Prince of Wales, one rail trip he made in February from London to Penrith, returning to Uttoxeter, cost £25,074. In June, a journey by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh from London to Crewe left a bill of £17,248, more than 50 times the cost of the most expensive standard ticket, according to Republic, which campaigns for a democratic alternative to the monarchy.

It claimed on another occasion that no public engagements were undertaken by Prince Charles and Camilla, despite charging £29,786 for a return charter flight from Clarence House to Balmoral. Clarence House said that because the Queen and the Prince of Wales were "always on duty", travel between residences was regarded as official expenditure.

Sir Alan Reid, keeper of the Privy Purse, said the Queen's official expenditure had fallen by 5.3 per cent to £32.1m last year and that the royal household would continue to reduce its costs in line with public spending. While there was a cut in spending on property services from £15.4m to £11.9m, revenues from the Royal Collection and palaces via paying visitors generated an extra £900,000 for the Queen's coffers. Much of the future savings will come from the rescheduling or cancelling of planned building work, which includes the refurbishment of state rooms at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

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