Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2002
MOTTRAM KCB, SIR
KCVO AND MR
180. That applies to everyone then.
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes.
181. The second from the bottom in the final
line the reason for choice of option says "necessitated a
very early start". You mentioned earlier that it was unreasonable
for the Queen to be getting up at the crack of dawn at the age
of 75 and we accepted that. But this argument about the necessity
for an early start seems to be applied here to the Prince of Wales
and his sons. What time was this?
(Sir Michael Peat) It depends what time the briefing
started but to get to the airport on that particular occasion,
you would have had to have left an hour and a half, an hour and
a half flight so three hours and then you would have had to have
initial briefing so four hours, due at ten o'clock, so they would
probably have had to leave around about five o'clock in the morning
182. Is there a cut-off time before which it
is unreasonable to get the Royal Family up?
(Sir Michael Peat) All these things are looked at
in the context of the overall engagement and all the various factors.
183. Is that a yes or a no? Is there a cut-off
(Sir Michael Peat) No, there is no cut-off time. Sometimes
the Queen has to get up very early in the morning and there is
no way round it because that is how it has to be done. Obviously
that is something to be avoided and all the various factors of
the engagement are taken into account.
184. Could I turn over to the second page and
the scale of staff? In 1999 23 staff of the Queen and Duke of
Edinburgh went to Denmark for a reconnaissance.
(Sir Michael Peat) No, it was Edinburgh. It was an
inward state visit by the Queen of Denmark.
185. They were coming here. I am not clear why
exactly 23 people need to be sent to Denmark for an incoming visit.
(Sir Michael Peat) What happened was that the Queen
of Denmark was going to Edinburgh for one of the days on the state
visit. She had a programme of engagements and it is not only the
Royal Household who want to check out precisely what she is going
to do, it is that the Foreign Office want to send people and the
Danish Embassy want to send people as well. There is quite a big
party which goes to do the reconnaissance visit, to check it all
out, that it is right, that it will achieve the objectives that
both UK and Denmark desire.
186. Do we not have staff in Denmark in the
Embassy who deal with these sorts of things? I should have thought
you could have invaded Denmark with 23 staff on a reconnaissance.
It does seem somewhat of a job creation programme, does it not?
(Sir Michael Peat) This is a question you would have
to put to the Foreign Office, not to me. They determine these
state visits and they determine the objectives which they hope
these state visits will achieve.
187. So you are not paying for any of this then.
The Royal Household did not pay for any of this. Is that right?
(Sir Michael Peat) The grant-in-aid paid for it; it
is charged to the grant-in-aid.
188. If it is charged to your budget I would
assume you would have some say about how many people went.
(Sir Michael Peat) No, that is not actually right.
The Royal Visits Committee determine all the overseas trips that
members of the Royal Family make and we do not have any say in
it. If we think the cost of travel is unreasonable we go back
to them and we say "You're sending this member of the Royal
Family on this visit. Did you realise it is going to cost this
amount in travel? Is that still commensurate with your objectives?".
Then they say yes or no.
189. You can understand how somebody might have
some anxiety that for an incoming trip sending 23 people does
look like overmanning.
(Sir Michael Peat) This flight was from London to
Edinburgh. It was before the visit.
190. So this was a reconnaissance in Edinburgh.
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes, it was in Edinburgh.
191. So there was nobody who had ever been to
Edinburgh before then.
(Sir Michael Peat) No.
192. Were they friendly in Edinburgh? Was there
anything to do? What was the food like? Was the water safe in
Edinburgh? Was that the sort of purpose of the visit?
(Sir Michael Peat) You would have to ask the Foreign
Office what the purpose of the visit was. The Foreign Office and
indeed ourselves play a large part in ensuring that the programme
for the whole day in Edinburgh met those objectives and the programme
will have a large number of components to it and different people
are responsible for different components. You are talking about
a very small amount of money. It was actually cheaper to use the
32 Squadron than to send everyone by scheduled airline. If you
feel that there were three or four too many people going on this,
you are absolutely right, the taxpayer spent £300 or £400
too much. Those in chargeand it was not medetermined
that 23 were necessary. It is quite a lot but it must have been
quite a complicated day in Edinburgh.
193. I wish I had somebody to plan my day; 23
people to plan my visits to Edinburgh.
(Sir Michael Peat) If you speak to the Foreign Office,
perhaps they will.
194. May I move on to the royal train? I think
you answered Mr Osborne on this point before. Where a single journey
is taken by train, do the costs which appear cover the moving
back of the train as well?
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes.
195. Fine; that is acceptable. May I clarify
the bottom one here on the second page? Two of the staff of the
Duke of York went on a reconnaissance for the visit to the Caribbean.
They presumably went to the Caribbean this time, did they?
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes, they did.
196. That was just to check things which could
not be checked from this end to make sure beaches were okay and
stuff like that, that the natives were friendly and the water
(Sir Michael Peat) Unfortunately going to the beach
was not on the programme. They have to go to our local High Commissions
or Embassies to see exactly what the Duke of York was going to
do, what the programme is so that he knows what he is expected
to do when he gets there.
197. Do you not trust the staff there then to
tell you by the electric telephone or anything like that? They
actually have to go there and see it, do they?
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes. If a job is worth doing, it
is worth doing properly. If the taxpayer is going to spend a lot
of money sending the Duke of York out to the Caribbean then it
is very important that his visit goes well, goes smoothly, is
a great success and reflects credit on our country when he gets
198. But it reflects very, very badly, does
it not, on the staff we already have there that you do not trust
them to do this properly? You have to send people out from London
to check that things are going to be fit and suitable for the
Duke of York. They are not able to communicate in any way, by
writing or telex or any of these modern gadgets.
(Sir Michael Peat) They are very able to communicate
in huge numbers of letters and telexes backwards and forward.
I do not know whether you have found in your life, but I certainly
find it in mine, that good pre-planning always pays dividends.
199. I do indeed find that. Unfortunately I
do not have two people whom I can normally send ahead of me to
make sure that things are prepared. The difficulty is that it
is just a question of cost and value for money. I am sure all
our trips would be much more successful if we were able to spend
somebody else's money to go in advance.
(Sir Michael Peat) If any of us were representing
our country in this way and the success of the trip was a matter
of national prestige, personally I should think it would be a
very good thing if someone were sent out before we visited, for
what it is worth.