REVEALED: How protection teams claim thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to guard former Prime MinistersBy Jason Lewis
Last updated at 2:52 AM on 4th July 2010
Sir John, who resigned as Conservative leader following his 1997 General Election defeat, has built up a portfolio of international directorships.
Until 2005 he was a highly-paid adviser to the American private equity Carlyle Group and has also worked for US firm Emerson Electric and UK car components and bus firm Mayflower.
His more recent commitments are less well-documented, but this year they have taken him – and his taxpayer-funded protection team – to New York, Chicago, Manila, Zurich, Seoul and Jamaica.
In October his busy schedule took him to Singapore and Stockholm and back to London and his home in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.
These movements were reflected in the expenses claims of his armed protection team, which included five nights in the historic Raffles Hotel in Singapore at a total cost of £2,154.
The bill included two officers treating Sir John to dinner at the elegant Raffles Grill.
Another claim includes a £516 bill for a two-night stay at the five-star Grand Hotel in Stockholm, and a further trip in March saw three officers fly with Sir John to Miami and then on to Seoul and Jamaica, with one officer submitting a claim for £6,761.
The claim also includes $64 US [£43] for a ‘River Tubing Safari’ for two officers when they accompanied Sir John to Jamaica. It is unclear whether Sir John was in attendance.
The trip is described as a ‘three-mile ride down the White River’.
An officer was sent in advance of Sir John for the Miami section of the trip to check out security. Scotland Yard accounts questioned why he did not stay in a cheaper Comfort Inn hotel.
But his superior wrote back authorising his £345 stay in a Marriott because ‘on occasion the wrong type of “people” [utilise] these chains’.
Beef Wellington, sea bass, rack of lamb ... ‘awaiting Principal’s movement’ on New Year’s Eve
Tony Blair’s new role as a global businessman and international peace envoy means a team of elite firearms officers at Scotland Yard are on stand-by to join him anywhere in the world – often at very short notice.
A rota involving around 20 officers is constantly on the move as Mr Blair flies to the Middle East one week and America the next, all at great public expense.
In the first five months of this year officers from this diplomatic protection team have flown to some 21 countries, sometimes with the former Prime Minister and at other times in advance of his proposed trip to ensure nothing is left to chance over his personal security.
The money-making tripsMr Blair’s personal fortune is now believed to have grown to £20 million, swelled by speaking engagements and business enterprises around the globe.
In April this year up to eight protection officers accompanied Mr Blair on a trip to South East Asia. The expenses claims of some of those officers show that they stayed in two of the region’s best hotels, the Mandarin Oriental in Kuala Lumpur and the Four Seasons in Singapore.
After six nights at the Four Seasons, one officer submitted a claim for 259 Singapore dollars (about £125) in laundry charges and 135 Singapore dollars (£65) for use of the hotel’s business centre. The total charge for his stay at the hotel was £1,610.
Mr Blair made two speeches during the trip, which took place just before
the General Election while Labour was receiving a drubbing in the polls.
He was paid the astonishing sum of £350,000 to address a meeting of the National Achievers’ Congress, which organises forums for young entrepreneurs. Mr Blair told 3,000 would-be millionaires gathered in a vast shopping mall near Kuala Lumpur:
‘Power is shifting east! You guys are at the cutting edge of things here in Malaysia!’
The night in the city for Mr Blair’s protection officer cost the taxpayer £252 in hotel expenses.
New Year’s Eve in OxfordOn New Year’s Eve last year several members of Mr Blair’s protection team were ‘deployed in Oxford awaiting the Principal’s movements’.
But bosses were later to query the officers’ £213.84 bill for a meal, including pheasant, beef wellington, sea bass, a rack of lamb, bread and butter pudding and sticky toffee pudding and soft drinks at Browns Restaurant. It was pointed out by the police accounts department that the cost of the meal was over the strict limits for dining in the UK.
In response, one of the officers wrote: ‘We attended Browns Restaurant for dinner and were required to book a table due to the unusually large demand that night (there was very limited availability in the area). There was a set cost of £35 per person, due to the obvious additional staffing costs etc incurred on a New Year’s Eve.’
The officer also claimed for five nights in the Malmaison Hotel, Oxford, at a cost of £984 to the taxpayer.
No receipt for limousine hireAccompanying Mr Blair on one of this many trips to America, an SO1 officer was deployed to New York, where they stayed at the historic and elegant Carlyle Hotel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side at a cost to the taxpayer of £464 a night.
Scotland Yard’s ‘protection command expenses team’ queried why there was a ‘missing receipt for limousine hire’ for £150 on a trip to Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where Mr Blair is a visiting lecturer on faith.
In response the officer said he and Mr Blair had begun the journey to Yale by helicopter but had to land because of fog. ‘I made enquires for a limousine service (taxi) to our destination. Mr Levin, the President of Yale, immediately offered the services of a vehicle hired by a Yale official… In order that we could maintain control of the Principal’s movements… I hired an accredited limousine.’
One night in JeddahIn April one SO1 officer travelled from Jerusalem to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, to Indonesia, on to Singapore and then to Washington DC, billing the taxpayer £6,693.
In the process he stayed in some of the world’s finest and most expensive hotels. One night in the Jeddah Hilton alone cost £1,264. He told Scotland Yard officials: ‘I booked into the Hilton Hotel in Jeddah.
On check-in I handed my credit card to the receptionist and this was processed.
‘At this point I asked for the room rate and was given the figure of 7,072.50 riyals, which equates to £1,264.06. I stated that there must have been a mistake and asked for a normal room. I was told the hotel was full with pilgrims, who were unable to leave the hotel due to the volcanic ash situation.’
Stranded by the volcanic ash cloudThe volcanic ash cloud caused problems for another officer whose April credit card bill was more than £4,800.
When his claims were questioned, he wrote: ‘This period… was during the volcanic ash trouble which happened whilst I was overseas for a five-day deployment. In the end I was overseas for 22 days and incurred laundry charges due to not having enough clothes.’
During the period the officer and several colleagues were forced to stay in the $550-a-night American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem, regularly dining in the hotel’s cellar bar, before travelling on to the £300-a-night Mandarin Oriental in Kuala Lumpur and the £184-a-night Singapore Four Seasons Hotel.