Critics say UK royals spending too much

  • World
  • Wednesday, 22 Jun 2005

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - Details of the British royal family's travel budget -- including a 300,000 pound ($550,000) trip by Prince Charles -- were revealed on Wednesday, prompting critics to demand the monarchy trim its spending. 

Buckingham Palace said that the figures, which showed the royal family cost each taxpayer just 61 pence ($1.12) a year, proved Queen Elizabeth and her household were providing good value for money. 

Britain's Queen Elizabeth is seen in this November 13, 2002 file photo at the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords in London. (REUTERS/Russell Boyce)

But critics seized on details of the 5 million pound transport costs. 

The most expensive was a trip to Sri Lanka, Australia and Fiji by heir-to-the-throne Charles which involved chartering a plane costing more than 292,000 pounds. 

It also showed the queen's second son Andrew, who was criticised last year for expenses incurred on his golf trips, spent 125,000 pounds chartering a flight to the Far East to promote British interests. 

Lawmaker Ian Davidson, a member of Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party, said the monarchy provided "reasonable value" but called the expenditure of the junior members of the royal family "indefensible". 

He also described the royal train, used just 19 times over the year, as "a gross extravagance". 

"We ought to have more of the royals using normal trains then perhaps they would put pressure on the powers that be to make sure the train service was improved for everyone," he told the BBC. 

The death of Princess Diana in a Paris car crash in 1997 marked a turning point in public opinion and led to attacks on the monarchy's wealth and demands that it become more open and accountable. 

Shortly afterwards, the queen agreed to scrap her beloved royal yacht Britannia rather than ask the public to pay 60 million pounds for a replacement. 

The Royal Public Finances annual report said the queen's family cost the taxpayer 36.7 million pounds in 2004-5, a 100,000-pound saving from the previous year, with the vast bulk of the money going towards the upkeep of the royal palaces. 

It was also 60 percent less than in 1991-2 when the expenditure amounted to 87.3 million pounds. 

"We believe this represents a value-for-money monarchy," said Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse, who looks after the queen's finances. 

"We're not looking to provide the cheapest monarchy. We're looking at one of good value and good quality." 

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