Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Tony Blair and his £250k globe-trotting guards: Taxpayer left footing the bill for former Prime Minister's security

By Jason Lewis

Full details of Tony Blair's travels in the past year graphically show how he is dividing his time between money-making deals, holidays and international diplomacy.
A Mail on Sunday investigation has revealed how the taxpayer has spent more than £250,000 paying the expenses of police bodyguards travelling with the former Prime Minister as he added to his £20million fortune, relaxed on luxury breaks and pursued his role as a UN peace negotiator.
It also can be revealed that the police  -  and therefore the taxpayer  -  sometimes pick up the bill for Mr Blair's transport. After an incident when police bodyguards paid the $230 cost of a limousine journey, a senior officer justified the expense with a note saying: 'When we make a decision around security matters ... it will fall down to us to pay.'
Busy boy: The map above shows a few of the locations Tony Blair 
has built up his expenses bill
Busy boy: The map above shows a few of the locations Tony Blair has built up his expenses bill
He added: 'I think that any moves away from this runs the risk of getting into the very public debate around the whole funding of [Mr Blair's] protection operations overseas.'
 
Last week Mr Blair's office rejected calls for him to pay towards the cost of his armed guards, arguing that he spends most of his time on unpaid charity work and on trying to secure peace in the Middle East. The former Premier spent about eight months of last year out of Britain.
Tony Blair
World tour: Tony Blair, pictured with his aide Ruth Turner, has built up quite a bill for taxpayer on his travels
But analysis of the travels of his security team  -  who fly with him and also in advance of overseas trips on security 'recces'  -  suggests he is also spending much of this time on his lucrative paid work.
Mr Blair is paid £2million a year as an adviser to Wall Street bank JP Morgan offering 'global strategic advice'. During a six-night trip to New York last September his bodyguards paid more than £465 a night to stay at the five-star Carlyle Hotel on fashionable Madison Avenue.
Mr Blair is also paid for similar help by Mubadala, an Abu Dhabi investment fund. One two-night stay for protection officers at the luxurious Emirates Palace Hotel cost more than £850, with a cappuccino and 'traditional English Cake' costing £11.69.
Critics suggest it is difficult to see the distinction between his holidays, charity work  -  he runs a Faith Foundation and the African Governance Initiative, trying to end corrupt practices in Rwanda and Sierra Leone  -  and his moneymaking ventures.
One of Mr Blair's trips at the end of last year to Abu Dhabi saw him meet the education minister in the morning to promote his charitable work and then the finance minister in the afternoon on behalf of JP Morgan.
The evidence from his guards' expenses claims also detail how Mr Blair took at least five luxury holidays last year, including six nights at Ulusaba, Sir Richard Branson's private game reserve in South Africa  -  described as 'the finest luxury known to man'.
The trip, in April, saw at least three officers travelling to the resort at a cost to the taxpayer of £2,050.