HL Deb 16 October 1996 vol 574 cc217-8WA
Viscount Whitelaw

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have for the future funding of Royal travel by rail and air.

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne)

The Government propose, with Her Majesty the Queen's agreement and following consultation with the Leader of the Opposition, to invite Parliament to approve next year a single grant-in-aid on the Department of Transport's vote for official Royal travel by rail and air. The Royal Household will use this to purchase the services of the Royal Train, of No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron or suitable commercial providers.

At present these costs are met by the Department of Transport and the Ministry of Defence or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as part of their general expenditure. The aim of the change is to have one focus—the Royal Household—responsible for securing the best value for money from this public money and to improve accountability to Parliament through the Department of Transport.

The grant-in-aid from the Department of National Heritage, under which the Royal Household takes on first line of responsibility for Property Services on the Occupied Royal Palaces, provides a suitable model. It has enabled savings in excess of 25 per cent. in real terms to be achieved since it was introduced in 1991. An annual report on the new grant-in-aid for Royal travel will be presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Transport. Once the new system is established, targets for savings will be agreed and performance against them published in this annual report.

The new grant-in-aid will not cover expenditure on the Royal Yacht, which is due to be decommissioned in 1997.

I am confident that these measures, which are consistent with modern financial management, will improve the cost-efficiency and public accountability of this expenditure.