While there were reports that Prime Minister Boris Johnson might have been on a “secret holiday” to Italy recently, despite the current coronavirus crisis and Brexit, it has emerged that he was in fact christening his newborn son, Wilfred. An article published on Sunday evening by La Repubblica carried a statement from the Perugia airport, which said Mr Johnson had passed through “in the last few days”. It was accompanied by a quote from an airport source, saying the Prime Minister landed on Friday, September 11 at 2pm.
However, Number 10 rubbished the version of events as “completely untrue” and insisted the Prime Minister had not travelled to Italy in recent months.
Only after a few hours, Perugia Airport’s president told the Daily Telegraph Mr Johnson was “definitely” not at the airport and staff mistook him for former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
It is not unusual for Mr Blair to have been spotted in an airport, though – as flying appears to be his preferred way of getting around the globe.
According to unearthed reports, the Labour grandee came under fire for using the Queen’s Flight more than she did during his premiership, at a cost of more than £1.2million.
He used the RAF’s Royal Squadron 677 times between 1997 and 2005, Whitehall statistics showed.
He even kept a BAE 146 jet on hand for a week during a family holiday in Egypt, at a cost of more than £30,000.
In contrast, the Queen used one of her own planes only seven times between March 2004 and March 2005.
Tory MPs accused Mr Blair and his ministers of using the Queen’s Flight as his “private taxi service”.
Then Shadow Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “I think most people will be astonished at the way ministers seem to be using the Queen’s Flight as a private taxi service.
“Ministers, including Gordon Brown, have been using it for short hops to Brussels.
“Margaret Beckett has been using it to be dropped home in the East Midlands and the Prime Minister has been taking it on holiday with him.
“I am not convinced we are being shown the full costs. Some of the figures look remarkably low given the expenses involved.”
A Downing Street spokeswoman defended Mr Blair, saying: “All travel is conducted within the requirements of the Ministerial Code.
“The Prime Minister always uses the most efficient form of transport, taking into account the alternatives available, the cost to the taxpayer and the environmental impact.”
It is not clear whether Boris Johnson regularly takes the Queen’s Flight.
However, while serving as Foreign Secretary, he complained about it, claiming it “never seems to be available”.
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Asked by reporters during his 2018 tour of South America if he would have liked a “Brexit plane”, Mr Johnson said he would have if costs were not “exorbitant”.
He said: “The taxpayers won’t want us to have some luxurious new plane, but I certainly think it’s striking that we don’t seem to have access to such a thing at the moment.
“If there’s a way of doing it that is not exorbitantly expensive then yes I think we probably do need something.”
The RAF Voyager has been available for both Cabinet members and the Royal Family since undergoing a £10million refit in 2016.
To keep costs down, the aircraft also conducts air-to-air refuelling missions for the RAF.
The Queen is understood to have priority use of the plane, followed by Prince Charles.
The Prime Minister is then third in line, before other Government ministers.
Other jets are available but Mr Johnson complained those planes had not been upgraded in almost 40 years.
— to www.express.co.uk