Protection officers must pay £70 a night for room and board at Buckingham Palace - then the Royal Family bills the taxpayerBy Jason Lewis
The Royal Family is charging the taxpayer for the room and board of armed police officers protecting the Queen.
The extraordinary fees - including £70 a night for a bed at Buckingham Palace - are levied for officers resting between shifts looking after Her Majesty, Prince Charles and other senior Royals.
The Palace also bills the Metropolitan Police for doing the officers' laundry and providing food for them at the Royal Household's staff canteens.
Last night, senior Home Office sources said a Government review of funding arrangements will question whether former politicians should pay towards their own bodyguards, particularly for business or private trips.
The huge figure does not include the cost of officers' flights and other travelling expenses but covers stays in luxury hotels and meals in expensive restaurants while on Royal protection duty.
Buckingham Palace issued a blanket 'no comment' last night when asked to explain why police officers were charged for accommodation.
A spokesman also refused to be drawn on how the bills were justified when the Queen and other Royals do not pay anything towards the cost of SO14, the Royal Protection squad, which is funded by the taxpayer.
A Mail on Sunday investigation can reveal that officers with the personal protection squad spent £318,000 between January and May on their Metropolitan Police-issue Barclaycards while travelling with the Royals.
The huge outlay included the cost of staying in hotels with Prince William and his girlfriend Kate Middleton during skiing trips in France.
It also took in a trip to Panama and America with Prince Andrew and a 'reconnaissance' visit in advance of Prince William's tour of Australia and New Zealand in January.
The cost of protecting the Royals and politicians as they travel the world is under renewed scrutiny after The Mail on Sunday last week exposed the £250,000-a-year expenses bill run up by officers guarding Tony Blair as he travelled the world.
The revelation prompted Foreign Secretary William Hague to demand that police protection for former Prime Ministers should not cost anything more 'than is absolutely necessary'.
Now fresh concerns are being raised over why the Royals appear to be charging the police - and therefore the taxpayer - for the privilege of guarding them.
The cost of police officers staying overnight at Buckingham Palace, for example, was an extraordinary £9,030 last month alone.
Security sources say the police are charged by the Palace even if an officer takes only a few hours' rest in a staff bedroom at the Palace between protection assignments.
In addition, 'around a dozen' cottages on the Queen's Balmoral estate in Scotland are leased to the Met for use by SO14 officers.
Figures obtained by The Mail on Sunday show that detectives were given £123,075 in cash from the Met's petty cash fund to cover three months' self-catering costs in the cottages.
Much of this money is understood to be paid as cash advances into officers' personal bank accounts and reconciled against their expenses claims, which include receipts for choice cuts of meat from H.M. Sheridan, the butcher in the nearby village of Ballater, where fillet steak costs £15.22 per lb.
There are also receipts from popular restaurant The Green Inn, which specialises in Scottish food with a French twist and features a set dinner menu priced at £40.50 for an appetiser plus three courses, including duck confit served with wild mushrooms and foie gras, and oven-roasted guinea fowl.
The cost of looking after the Royals on holiday is also under renewed scrutiny. Officers often arrive in a resort days beforehand to carry out a threat assessment and work out the safest transport options.
With them were at least three armed officers, who spent more than £7,500 on the nine-day trip. Two of the guards stayed in the Hotel Pomme De Pin, where guests can ski in and out from the hotel terrace. Their two rooms and meals cost £6,173 at the three-star hotel.
The room charges included complimentary ski passes, but the officers also paid £232 for another ski pass for a police sergeant, £169.77 for ski hire 'in order to carry out protection duties', £103.86 for 'rental of snow mobile to carry out protection duties' and several warming cups of hot chocolate at the Boutique Grand Marnier, each costing £3.76.
'I have also paid for a ski pass . . . for PS ***** as at the time of purchase he was unable to pay for this himself as he was engaged on protection duties with the Principal [the Royal they were protecting].'
The expenses bill also includes claims for meals and snacks near RAF Odiham in Hampshire, where Prince William was based during a helicopter training course. One claim, from the White Hart at Stockbridge, included a meal for two featuring fillet steak priced at £17.95, lamb kidneys at £5.75 and three glasses of ginger beer.
Last night the Metropolitan Police refused to discuss the money it paid to the Royals for officers' accommodation at Buckingham Palace, Balmoral and elsewhere.
A spokeswoman reiterated its commitment to 'deliver value for money', adding: 'We monitor and scrutinise the cost of operations and expenses and report regularly to individual groups and the Metropolitan Police Authority.'