Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140
WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2002
MOTTRAM KCB, SIR
KCVO AND MR
140. I do not want to be facetious but leaves
usually stops trains.
(Sir Richard Mottram) It slows them down.
(Sir Michael Peat) We have not been prone to that
141. You are very lucky. Would it not be possible
to use more scheduled trains then?
(Sir Michael Peat) As the report says, we used the
scheduled train service on 60 occasions already, which out of
a total of 484 journeys is quite a high percentage as it is. We
only used the train last year 17 times. As we have already discussed,
this is the issue. Despite the fact that we have reduced the annual
cost of the train by £1.3 million, you are absolutely right
that the train is expensive and therefore because it is expensive
what happens is that the Royal Family do not use it very often
and they do not use it unless they can really avoid it. That of
course pushed up the cost of the train even more. This is the
issue the Chairman referred to to begin with, that we need to
think very carefully about after the Golden Jubilee.
142. Reading the report, I can understand that
when the Royal Family travel they do need to be accompanied by
certain members of staff, but I was rather intrigued to see in
paragraph 3.2 that it said experts and specialists such as doctors,
hairdressers, artists are invited by members of the Royal Family.
Why do you need an artist along? He is not sitting there drawing,
(Sir Michael Peat) He is. On four occasions during
the last four years, the Prince of Wales has taken an artist with
him on an overseas trip. He believes quite strongly that that
is a contribution he is making to British art. It is very much
welcomed. He always takes a young and up and coming artist who
has not necessarily got an established reputation. He put on at
his own expense a couple of years ago an exhibition of the works
of art that these young artists have produced.
143. Who pays for them to go on the trip?
(Sir Michael Peat) It does not actually cost anything.
They never go unless there is a spare seat on the aircraft. If
it cost anything, they would not go. If an aircraft has 20 seats
the party is not always 20. Generally it might be 18 or 19 and
if there is a spare seat
144. This is amazing economics, saying that
it does not actually cost anything. Presumably if they were charged,
it would bring the cost down.
(Sir Michael Peat) If a young artist were charged,
the man or woman would not go at all.
145. Or a hairdresser.
(Sir Michael Peat) I do not want to get into details
but it is only really the Queen who takes a hairdresser and very
occasionally other female members of the Royal Family very, very
occasionally. The Queen does have to appear on a state visit overseas
at a number of official functions throughout the day.
146. Does the Department validate these particular
(Sir Richard Mottram) Yes, we do. We agree with the
Royal Household the basis on which they are going to operate the
guidelines. From the point of view of the Department, we are perfectly
happy with what is stated here.
147. Could I move on to the total party size
and looking at Appendix 2? There were rather big parties on certain
of the trips? I noticed one in particular which was the Prince
of Wales's trip to Trinidad and Tobago. The total party size was
48, but if you look at the little note at the bottom, note 4,
it says that in that party there were 18 members of the Household
and 30 journalists. Somewhere in the report I read that in that
particular year, which was 2000-01, the amount of income you got
from the journalists was £2,000.
(Sir Michael Peat) No, if you look along to the right
the figure is £60,000. The year is 1999-2000.
148. From that particular trip you got £60,000
from the journalists.
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes; it is just there at the end
of the line.
149. I was reading that in that particular year
only £2,000 was taken and I could not understand how 30 journalists
got to Trinidad and Tobago. Journalists get enough perks as it
is without getting free trips to Trinidad and Tobago for £2,000.
In Appendix 2 as well, can you explain why there are so many on
these trips at the expense of the taxpayer?
(Sir Michael Peat) As I went through earlier, it depends
on the sort of trip. The Queen is accompanied by a private secretary,
by police, by domestic staff responsible for returned hospitality,
probably by a Foreign Office Minister and some people from his
or her department. Numbers do build up a little.
150. It seemed to me that the request for payment
was very lackadaisical and the equivalent costs requested were
very lackadaisical. For example, when you wanted to find out what
the cost was you phoned up British Airways and asked what the
cost was for a trip. It was not written down, the bills were not
sent to the journalists or whoever was travelling and the money
was not received. That seems a very lackadaisical way of going
(Sir Michael Peat) The NAO did raise two points. It
was not that the requests for payment were lackadaisical, we actually
put the requests in but we had difficulty getting the details
of the amounts to be charged from various people, all the subsistence
claims, things like landing fees which we charge on. Then we had
difficulty with some people paying. We have now speeded it up
and it is better than it was. On the issue of not keeping the
documents, what used to happen was when we were re-charging journalists,
we charged them roughly along the lines of airline tickets. We
used to ring up the airlines and ask how much they charged for
Business Class from Trinidad to London or wherever we were going
and we did not write down what they said. We do now write it down
so we have a record.
151. That is the reason why I thought it was
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes. It is a very minor area but
we strive for perfection.
152. Do you get the money now?
(Sir Michael Peat) We get all the money back in the
end and we get it back faster now.
153. May I begin by saying that I think this
is a very good report from your point of view and you have made
very good progress and you should be congratulated on that. From
my own point of view, I do not think there is anything intrinsically
wrong with the head of state or the head of government, the Prime
Minister, flying around with a bit of dignity. However, I do not
think it should rest on a fiction. I am a bit concerned that 32
Squadron is the fiction, that it exists basically for the Prime
Minister, the Queen and so on. The Ministry of Defence says of
course it is really there to provide communications and logistical
support for military operations. Is there really a military function
for these planes which is being fulfilled and would the squadron
need to exist if the Prime Minister and the Queen were not using
(Mr McEwen) Oh, yes. You will recall that the Strategic
Defence Review back in 1998 redefined the commitments and tasks
which the armed forces have to be configured for. Following that,
in 1999, there was a review to see, given the definition of these
tasks and commitments, what the operational requirement was for
communications flying. Clearly in a crisis you do need to take
senior commanders around, to take headquarters elements around,
there may be a need to take urgent small items of high value freight
where it would not be cost effective to use or divert a larger
transport aircraft. All that sort of communications flying is
absolutely essential in operations. Indeed both aircraft have
been used in operations which armed forces have been involved
in over the past few years. The review looked at the requirement
for a crisis, the need for operational communications flying and
that is why 32 Squadron is set up as it is.
154. Since it provides communications and logistical
support for military operations, and I have never had the privilege
of flying inside one of 32 Squadron's planes, could you describe
what it looks like inside? Is it full of high-tech equipment?
(Mr McEwen) They are basically passenger jets. That
is what they are there for. They are there to take people around.
155. This is probably outside the scope of this
inquiry but is any check done on the use of these planes by the
Ministry of Defence? Whereas Ministers and the Royal Family have
to justify the way they use this plane, I remember from the report
that there is no internal accounting procedure within the Ministry
of Defence for the use of these planes by generals.
(Mr McEwen) Oh, yes. There is a very close scrutiny
of all usage of these planes within the Ministry of Defence as
for other government departments.
156. It says the Ministry's own use of the squadron's
aircraft is not re-charged within the Ministry.
(Mr McEwen) No, it is not re-charged because that
would just be moving money around within the same department,
which would be a bureaucratic exercise. What is done is that senior
officials, military commanders, can only use these aircraft in
set circumstances where it is justifiable and cost-effective for
them to use these aircraft rather than make the journey in some
other way. That is all scrutinised by the communications fleet
tasking agency, which has the general role of allocating these
aircraft to various users.
157. Has there ever been an occasion that you
are aware of when the Royal Family or the Prime Minister of whoever
have wanted to use one of the planes but they have not been available
because they were being used for communications and logistical
support for military operations?
(Mr McEwen) There have certainly been occasions when
people have been unable to use them. The Royal Family have the
highest priority and given that they only use it for eight per
cent of the total flying, it is unlikely that we would be in a
position where the Royal Family had to be told they could not
use the aircraft, unless we had a major crisis. There are certainly
occasions where other users of the aircraft are told they cannot
have it because it is required for operational purposes.
158. So as head of the armed services the Queen
can pull rank on anyone else.
(Mr McEwen) Indeed; yes.
159. How does royal travel compare to senior
ministerial travel? When the Prime Minister goes abroad on a big
visit such as when he went to South America recently, how would
he travel? Would he take a similar sized party? How would that
be charged and so on?
(Sir Richard Mottram) It is not something for me,
but as someone who has worked a lot with Ministers in the past,
if the Prime Minister were going on a significant overseas visit,
he would take staff with him and then to the extent that there
is capacity on the aeroplane he would probably offer that to journalists,
so they would fill the capacity up with journalists. For instance,
if it is a European summit, the Prime Minister's party would be
considerable because he would take officials from a number of
departments and he would probably travel with Foreign Office people.