Royal Family (Overseas Visits Costs)

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 1:45 pm on 12th March 1997.

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Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West 1:45 pm, 12th March 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much has been spent by his Department on providing clothes for members of the royal family travelling overseas on official visits in the current financial year. [18311]

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Foreign Secretary

This Department has spent 15,259 so far in the current financial year on clothing costs for members of royal parties undertaking official overseas visits at the request of the Government.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

I like a bit of decent gear myself, but that seems rather a lot of money to spend on royal clothes. I understand that, the year before, £47,000 was spent. Several members of the royal family, especially the Kents and Gloucesters, seem to visit countries with broadly similar climates but never seem to want to wear the same suit or dress twice. Why? Would it not save money for the taxpayer if there were a royal central pool of clothes—[Interruption.] It is a very serious point. Members of the royal family could then recirculate them, which would be of use to them and to the hard-pressed taxpayer.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Foreign Secretary

Regarding the hon. Gentleman's initial comments, I think the rest of his question illustrates why he is unlikely to be called on to represent Her Majesty's Government on overseas visits.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

I did not need the Foreign Secretary to tell me that.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Foreign Secretary

I think that is the only point we agree on.

The hon. Gentleman should reflect on the fact that, when members of the royal family go abroad, their entitlement, and that of those who accompany them, to some assistance with clothing applies only when they undertake visits at the express request of Her Majesty's Government. I also emphasise that only members of the royal family who are not in receipt of the civil list receive such assistance.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale

Has the Secretary of State reflected, in answer to the would-be mayor of Greater London, that he must have seen with his own eyes that, when our royal family travel abroad, their travel arrangements and entourages are conspicuously more modest than those of presidents or vice-presidents of republics throughout the world?

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Foreign Secretary

The right hon. Gentleman is entirely correct. I believe that this country benefits enormously from the ability of members of the royal family to travel abroad, and I pay special tribute to the remarkable achievement of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, which I believe made a very substantial contribution to this country's relationship, not only with that country, but with all the countries of the region.