British PM David Cameron to get plane to be used for official trips

British Prime Minister David Cameron arriving in Muscat on Feb 13, 2011.
British Prime Minister David Cameron arriving in Muscat on Feb 13, 2011.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron and his senior ministers are to get their own airplane to use for official trips, the government said on Thursday (Nov 19).

The decision comes as Finance Minister George Osborne prepares to set out a fresh round of spending cuts in a bid to eliminate the budget deficit.

"We have been looking at ways to make better use of the RAF fleet to transport senior ministers and consequently deliver savings for taxpayers," a government spokesman said, adding that an air-to-air refuelling airplane would be refitted.

"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."

Local media reported it would cost around £10 million pounds (S$21.6 million) to refit the plane, which will also be available for use by the Royal family. Details of the plan will come in a defence review on Monday.

While the government is likely to face criticism for what may be seen as an extravagance at a time of widespread cuts, the spokesman said the dedicated plane would save around 775,000 pounds a year on ministerial travel compared to the existing system of regularly chartering flights.

Previous plans for an American-style "Air Force One" were dropped in 2008 by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who said they would be too costly.

The long-haul private jet had been given the go-ahead by his predecessor Tony Blair, leading it to be dubbed "Blair Force One" by the media.