David Cameron is going to get his own prime ministerial plane to take him on official international visits.
The plane, a refitted RAF aircraft, will reportedly cost around £10 million and will also be available to the royal family and government ministers as early as next year.
The announcement is likely to be controversial in light of government cuts to other departments, but a ministerial source told The Telegraph the refitted A330 Voyager aircraft will save taxpayers almost £1 million a year because the government will no longer have to pay for specially chartered flights.
The source said: "This is about saving taxpayers' money. There will be upfront costs but by using a refitted RAF Voyager instead of chartering private aircraft for each long-distance trip, we will save taxpayers around £775,000 a year."
There have been past proposals for a UK version of Air Force One, which transports the US president, but the plans, initially set out by Tony Blair in 2006, were met with strong criticism. Gordon Brown scrapped the proposals in 2011, with his government saying it was "better value for money" to continue to use chartered flights.
A Conservative government spokesperson said the newly refurbished prime ministerial plane will "deliver savings" for taxpayers.
"As part of the government's defence review, we have been looking at ways to make better use of the RAF fleet to transport senior ministers and consequently deliver savings for taxpayers," said the spokesperson.
"We have decided to adapt one of our existing Voyager aircraft so that in addition to its primary air tanking role, it can transport ministers and it will also be available for the royal family to use."
However, Labour shadow minister Louise Haigh said there was no guarantee the plane would be cheaper than the current arrangements, and criticised Cameron for not trying to lower his travel costs before now.
"It's five years since David Cameron said he'd cut his travel costs by 25%, so any attempt to reduce them is already long overdue," said Haigh. "We won't know if the new prime ministerial plane is cheaper than charter flights until he starts using it and No. 10 reveals the cost.
"But, given that the last set of spending figures from his own department were meant to be published 15 months ago, it could be years before we find out."
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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