Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2002
MOTTRAM KCB, SIR
KCVO AND MR
80. May I ask how often journeys are made within
any one month which were not forecast to be made at the time that
the grant-in-aid was drawn down for that month? For example, I
can quite understand you might have to go on a hurried visit if
a foreign potentate died and was buried and you went out for a
state funeral. How often does that happen?
(Sir Michael Peat) It happens; it has happened in
my recollection three or four times in the last two or three years.
81. On average you would not get any unexpected
(Sir Michael Peat) It is not always overseas. It is
if there is a disaster, the floods, or if there is an air crash
or something special happens and a member of the Royal Family
goes. Engagements do come up at short notice, that is the whole
point of the job. Members of the Royal Family do go on them.
82. But what you are saying is that it happens
(Sir Michael Peat) No more than two or three a month
I would have thought.
83. I am interested in the fact that the average
cost of a normal journey seems to be up to about £50,000
. There are some which cost a lot more than that but they on the
whole are the state visits which are obviously not coming up at
the last moment.
(Sir Michael Peat) Do you mean a normal overseas journey?
84. Yes or indeed in this country. Not more
than £50,000 per visit on the whole. The appendices show
that the cost of travel is not in general more than about £50,000
except for the state visits which obviously cost more but we know
about the state visits a long time in advance so they are not
emergencies. Given that you are saying perhaps two or three a
month, does that not mean that the contingency sums you are looking
at are still in excess of the real need? Contingency is presumably
there for these unexpected visits. The amount of money you are
going to be spending on unexpected visits is the number per month
times the maximum cost and it is still a lot less than the contingency
(Sir Michael Peat) I have to say we are talking about
tens of pounds rather than hundreds of pounds in this issue. The
contingency was originally set at 2 per cent of the grant-in-aid
and in the NAO report the figure of £300,000 is referred
to. The reason why the contingency seemed larger than necessary
was because it was not reviewed on a monthly basis. It was set
on an annual basis and, due to our success in reducing expenditure,
the 2 per cent figure dropped quite substantially. As the NAO
also say in their report, we have excellent working capital management
systems for investing any spare money immediately on the money
market. So I very much hope that the amount of money lost to the
taxpayer as a result of the contingency being £50,000 or
£100,000 higher than it need be is not even into tens of
pounds because our working capital control system, if I can say
so immodestly, is excellent.
85. I accept that. May I go on to some questions
on the royal train? I understand that the royal train was handed
over by British Rail to Railtrack at nil cost when Railtrack came
into existence. Parts of it were then sold and the proceeds, some
£235,000, went to the Department, although it was owned by
Railtrack. I do not quite understand why Railtrack allowed the
money to go to the Department if they owned the train. Admittedly
they got a very good deal, because they got it at nil cost when
it must have had a value.
(Sir Michael Peat) It is technical ownership. There
is quite a complicated memorandum of agreement between Railtrack
and the Department and effectively rights of ownership are exercised
by the Department because the Department have the right to require
Railtrack to transfer the train back to them for nil consideration.
When we say it is owned by Railtrack, it is not the sort of ownership
that most of us would recognise.
Mr Rendel: I agree.
(Sir Richard Mottram) It is just a convenience.
86. I think not. If the royal train were to
be sold, what alternatives would have to be used?
(Sir Michael Peat) Not much, I am afraid. As we said
earlier, it is good old-fashioned 1960s/1970s First Class rolling
87. What else would the Royal Family use? If
you decided to sell the royal train, what else would the Royal
(Sir Michael Peat) They would have to go by plane,
scheduled train perhaps, depending on the requirements of the
engagement. Some of the engagements would not be possible.
88. So there is a real genuine need for some
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes.
89. They could not be done without the royal
train being there.
(Sir Michael Peat) Absolutely.
90. How many of the journeys on the royal train
were reimbursed at all in terms of taking private people or press
members on the royal train?
(Sir Michael Peat) None at all.
91. Nobody travels on it.
(Sir Michael Peat) We tried with the Department to
get other government users to use it in 1997. We would very much
have liked other people to have used it, but unfortunately, because
it is mainly configured for overnight accommodation and does not
have particularly good conference and dining facilities, people
were not that keen.
92. I imagine there might be people from the
press for example in London who wanted to go out on a visit which
a member of the Royal Family was going to do, say to Cumbria,
who might be prepared to pay to go that way.
(Sir Michael Peat) We have not come across those people
93. Have you tried?
(Sir Michael Peat) Yes, we have. We do try quite hard.
The trouble is that the train is mainly just for sleeping overnight
on. It leaves quite late at night and it is used so the member
of the Royal Family can do an engagement, a dinner engagement
or something in the evening, and they can go to the station at
eleven o'clock at night and then be in the middle of the town
first thing next morning. That unfortunately is an arrangement
which does not always
94. I am amazed that in order for up to nine
people, which in Appendix 2 is the greatest number of members
of the Household who travel on the train in any of the three journeys
listed, to travel you have nine coaches.
(Sir Michael Peat) Not all the coaches are used at
95. I am glad to hear it.
(Sir Michael Peat) Two of the coaches are not for
people: one is for electrics and the other is for security and
communications. You also do have to have a coach for food. Even
if you have nine people, they still have a right to be fed, so
it is not quite as simple as that because you do not have all
96. So a coach at most for the food, a coach
for the electrics, a coach for the security, one coach must take
nine people sleeping. You presumably never have more than four
coaches at once on the train.
(Sir Michael Peat) It varies between five and seven.
The nine people does not include the railway support staff who
run the train who have to have somewhere to sleep as well. The
nine people are the royal party.
97. On page 30 of Appendix 2 a journey was made
by the Prince of Wales in the royal train up to Cumbria where
he later used the Household helicopter. If you are going to take
the helicopter up to Cumbria why do you not take the Prince of
Wales with it at the same time?
(Sir Michael Peat) Because the helicopter would have
taken an hour and a half to get there.
98. Which is a lot quicker than the train.
(Sir Michael Peat) It was a very important day's meeting
and before going to the meeting, if you do any job you have to
do it well, he would have to have briefings, he would have to
go through the day's schedule and that would have meant he would
have had to get everyone together before he left round about six
or seven in the morning to go through it all because you cannot
do those sorts of briefings on the helicopter. It was felt that
it was unreasonable to get everyone together for the briefings
at that time in the morning. Also, not only was it unreasonable,
but it would compromise the possible success of the day by introducing
too much of a wear and tear element into it. It was a very important
Chairman: Thank you for your questioning on
the royal train, Mr Rendel. I think we now know that the royal
train is not as crowded as Connex South East.
99. I should like to start by asking about the
overall costs which it says right at the beginning of the report
have fallen from £17.3 million four years ago to £5.4
million which is very impressive, particularly because you have
kept the amount of travel in total seemingly about the same; air
travel about the same and rail travel more than double. It does
beg the question of what was going on before. Is it fair to say
that before you started to run the show there was a rather slack
attitude which you have stamped out?
(Sir Michael Peat) I am pleased to say that I am not
in a position to answer that question because I obviously was
not responsible. I would say that there is no doubt that bringing
together user and financial responsibility, which was the purpose
of the grant-in-aid, so that one department was responsible both
for determining the journeys and for controlling the costs, is
always a good thing and that was achieved by means of the grant-in-aid
and gave it all greater focus.