|http://www.sina.com.cn 2005/01/10 10:08 国际在线|
Tony Blair is facing fresh criticism over his holiday arrangements after the disclosure that he cost taxpayers up to ?100,000 by using the Queen's Flight to travel with his family for a Christmas break in Egypt, during the height of the tsunami crisis.
They used an RAF 32 Squadron BAe 146, which is also used by the Queen and the Royal Family, to fly to Sharm el Sheikh. Under Commons rules, the Prime Minister is entitled to use the flights, which cost more than ?8,000 an hour, but must repay an unspecified proportion of the costs unless he travels wholly on official business.
Downing Street said that Mr Blair had paid the equivalent of a commercial flight - substantially less than the Queen's Flight cost - because he conducted some official business.
The Conservatives, however, questioned why he repeatedly appeared to add an element of business to holiday trips. Chris Grayling, the MP for Epsom and Ewell, is demanding full details under the Freedom of Information Act of the extent of Mr Blair's use of the Queen's Flight, and how much he has paid since 1997.
Last month, Mr Grayling sparked an official investigation by the parliamentary commissioner for standards after complaining that the Prime Minister had not declared a 2002 holiday at the French home of Alain Dominique Perrin, a leading figure in the tobacco industry. Mr Blair could be forced to apologise to the Commons.
Mr Grayling said: "The Prime Minister appears to have used the Queen's Flight for the majority of his holidays over the years. I want to know how much he has been invoiced for and whether he has always paid the proper amount back to the taxpayer or whether this is a way of getting freebies."
Downing Street said that Mr Blair had met President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, the King of Jordan, the King of Bahrain and made a "significant number of phone calls to other world leaders" during his stay. A spokesman said that the RAF plane was used because of security advice. The Queen's Flight is equipped with defensive missiles and armour plating to protect against small arms fire.
A return flight from Heathrow to Sharm el Sheikh, via Cairo, is ?434 per person on Egypt Air. A private charter would be nearer ?80,000. There are no direct commercial flights.