22 June 2001
Full report: Royal Travel by Air and Rail
In the three years since the Royal Household took over responsibility for managing its own air and rail travel, the cost of such travel has reduced by two thirds. However, as a result of the National Audit Office’s enquiries, the basis of charging by the Ministry of Defence for royal use of the RAF’s 32 (The Royal) Squadron is to be changed.
According to today’s report to Parliament by head of the National Audit Office Sir John Bourn, expenditure by the Household since April 1997 on air and rail travel has totalled some £39 million, falling from £17.3 million in 1997-98 to an estimated £5.4 million in 2000-01 – a reduction of 69 per cent. Since 1997, the Royal Household has administered a grant-in-aid1, until recently from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and now from the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, to cover the cost of royal travel by air and rail.
Key findings of the NAO report are as follows.
A grant in aid is a payment by a government department to finance all or part of the costs of a body. Any grant not spent at the end of the year reverts to the department and the Exchequer.
Before April 1997, funding and responsibility rested with the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for air travel, and the then Department of Transport for rail travel. From April 1997, the Household has had day to day responsibility for managing royal travel arrangements; and the grant-in aid has been administered by the Department of Transport and, from June 1997, by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. From June 2001 this has become the responsibility of the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions.
Some travel is principally available for royal use, such as the royal train and helicopter service; the Royal Family also uses around 10 per cent of the flying time of the aircraft of the Royal Air Force's 32 (The Royal) Squadron; whilst other travel is undertaken using chartered or scheduled services. The grant-in-aid does not cover royal travel by car, which is met from the Civil List, Parliamentary Annuities or from the Royal family's own funds.
Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website at http://www.nao.org.uk/ Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.
The Comptroller and Auditor General, Sir John Bourn, is the head of the National Audit Office employing some 750 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.