Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Royal Connections

Prince Andrew has once more been busy acting as the royal front for UK plc.

The Duke of York announced last July that he would step down as the UK's special representative for trade following criticism of his business connections with dictators including Gaddafi. Nevertheless, he has remained at the heart of the UK government's export drive and has carried out 17 engagements in Saudi Arabia and China for UK Trade and Investment, an arm of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. In the past six months, he had meetings with 15 ministers from foreign governments in Qatar, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia and took part in five dinners and lunches abroad in aid of British trade.

He had meetings with the emir of Qatar, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, the prime minister of Malaysia and the presidents of Panama and Mongolia. He hosted a reception last week for UK trade delegates at the world economic forum in Davos, Switzerland. Two weeks ago, he attended a reception for the Turkmenistan-UK Trade and Industry Council In December, he met the king of Bahrain after the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry published a report which, according to Human Rights Watch, "found a pattern of serious human rights violations that included the use of excessive force against peaceful protesters, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and ill-treatment of detainees".

Travel costs for the trips were covered by royal travel grant-in-aid, which is funded by the Department for Transport. A previous charter flight from Farnborough to Jeddah and back on a trade mission to Saudi Arabia was billed to the taxpayer at £28,767. An economy-class ticket is obviously out of the question!

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