Gordon Brown has finally shelved plans to lease two aircraft for Royal and ministerial visits, apparently thrifty Brown believes that they should all travel via scheduled flights where possible. Brown of course, travels by private jet.
This is more impudence from MPs. All MPs should be required to take scheduled flights, there is no reason why a minister should need to have a dedicated flight , there are planes departing from British airports all of the time, flying all over the world. I cannot understand why ministers would need to lease a plane anyway, few have any reason to go abroad, and the rest should make the best use of public transport.
Of course it is a different matter for the Queen, our Head of State. It simply wouldn’t do to have the Queen flying scheduled flights, in fact it would be shameful. Most other heads of state fly using military aircraft, which the Queen does as present – at least for another week. Swiss Tony however, decided that he wanted a special plane, just like his pal George, even though this would cost £100 million.
The Queen’s Flight, as it was once called, provided all air transport for the Royal Family and some government ministers. Naturally this was provided by the MoD for free, which never really went down too well.
In recent decades ministers have started taking the piss. What was once used to shuttle the Queen, senior members of the Royal Family and the PM and senior cabinet ministers (i.e. Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary), was now frequently being used by the Culture Secretary, International Development Secretary, Deputy PM and the Minister for Silly Walks. Basically any MP that didn’t want to travel with the plebes. All provided gratis, by the MoD.
This obviously irked the MoD, but it also annoyed the Queen who frequently discovered that she couldn’t use the Queen’s Flight because someone like Margaret Beckett or Alistair Darling were using it as a private taxi service to fly home. This then forced the Queen and her entourage to charter a BA jet, costing the taxpayer even more money.
Rather than work out some kind of arrangement, or rein in the liggers, Blair wanted his own plane, and one for the Queen. After all he used the Queen’s Flight over 700 times during his spell as PM, in fact his cabinet made the Royal Family look like hermits.
The most cost effective solution to this was obvious, stop MPs from needlessly using the Queens Flight, and that includes the PM, and carry on with the Royal Squadron but paid for by the Government. After all the Queen rarely goes anywhere without being told to by the Foreign Office.
Brown instead abandoned the two leased aircraft idea, under the pretext of saving money, in favour of a blank cheque to MPs. Now they can charter flights, left, right and centre, for any reason whatsoever!
I suspect that the real reason for this, is that having a squadron or specific system of leasing planes is easier to track and likely to receive many Freedom of Information requests. This ad-hoc system will make it much harder for Joe Public to find out just how much Brown and his cronies are spending on jetting around the globe.
MPs are meant to represent the common people, hence the name House of Commons, few people in Britain travel by Private Jet, or Chartered Planes, then again some would say that it is entirely representative of the people that the MPs truly work for.