Controversy over Blair’s use of Royal BAe 146

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing criticism over his use of a Queen’s Flight BAe 146 for personal vacation travel. Blair and his family used a BAe 146 of RAF 32 (The Royal) Squadron to fly to Egypt’s Sharm el Sheikh resort in late December. The Prime Minister and other government officials are entitled to use the aircraft, but must repay part of the costs when a trip is not solely for official business. Mr Blair’s office argued that the trip included official business, as he met with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, the King of Jordan, and the King of Bahrain, and that security considerations precluded the use of commercial flights. Mr Blair paid the equivalent of a commercial fare for the flight. Opposition politicians are questioning, however, what they see as a pattern of tacking on a token item of official business to holiday trips to justify use of the aircraft. Other government ministers have also made frequent use of 32 Squadron’s aircraft, including the Foreign Secretary, the Defence Secretary, as well as the Environment and Culture Secretaries and the Chancellor. An investigation, led by Sir Peter Gershon, is currently being conducted of the cost-effectiveness of No.32 Squadron.

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