British ministers to get private plane

LONDON • Britain is to spend up to £10 million (S$22 million) converting a military plane for official use by Prime Minister David Cameron and senior ministers, according to British media.

The government is set to reveal plans to convert the A330 Voyager as part of its security and defence review next Monday, arguing that having an aircraft akin to the United States "Air Force One" would be more secure and cost-efficient in the long run.

The jet - a version of the Airbus A330-200 - is a long-haul plane that is able to carry 160 passengers.

However, critics accuse the government, which is imposing deep cuts as part of its programme to eliminate the public deficit, of hypocrisy.

"We have been looking at ways to make better use of the RAF (Royal Air Force) fleet to transport senior ministers and consequently deliver savings for taxpayers," said a government spokesman yesterday.

"We have decided to adapt one of our existing Voyager aircraft so that, in addition to its primary air tanking role, it can transport ministers and it will also be available for the royal family to use."

"So, David Cameron cuts tax credits and in return we buy him a £10m private jet. So glad we're all in it together," wrote Twitter user fleetstreetfox.

Mr Tony Blair was the last leader to push for a prime ministerial jet - so-called "Blair Force One" - but then finance minister Gordon Brown blocked the request.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2015, with the headline 'British ministers to get private plane'. Print Edition | Subscribe