Dominic Raab says £900,000 PM plane paint job 'delivers bang for our buck'

18 June 2020, 10:08

By Megan White

Dominic Raab has defended the Government’s plans to spend £900,000 repainting the Prime Minster’s plane, saying it “delivers bang for our buck.”

It was revealed on Wednesday that the military plane will be adorned with the colours of the Union Flag at a cost of almost £1 million, prompting criticism from Opposition MPs.

But the Foreign Secretary said it is “not like painting your bike” and said we should be “proud of Britain’s role in the world.”

Asked by LBC’s Nick Ferrari whether the cost was justified when the pension triple lock could be at risk, Mr Raab said: “I don’t think there’s a trade-off there, but of course we keep our travel fleet up to date, the maintenance and repair.

“It’s really important that the ability of the Prime Minister to be able to get to other places around the world and get back to the UK is critically important.

“There’s regular upgrades that take place, it’s not like painting your bike.

The plane is set to receive a Union Flag makeover
The plane is set to receive a Union Flag makeover. Picture: PA

“You’re seeing the French come here today, they’re proud of their history. They do things with great pomp.”

When asked if he thought it was value for money, Mr Raab said: “I think we should be proud of Britain’s role in the world, and making sure the Prime Minister can network among his international interlocutors is really important and it delivers bang for our buck back home because of the investment, the cooperation, the trade that we do.”

Criticising the size of the bill, acting Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey compared it with the cost of drugs used to treat Covid-19 patients.

Sir Ed tweeted: "The drug dexamethasone, that can potentially save the lives of people with coronavirus, costs £5 per patient.

"Boris Johnson could have bought 180,000 doses of that, but instead he's painting a flag on a plane."

Labour shadow minister Emma Hardy said: "For goodness sake. Please can we have a grown up as a Prime Minister instead of a child."

And her fellow Opposition front bench colleague Justin Madders tweeted: "What's he painting it with, gold leaf?"

The SNP lambasted it as an "utterly unacceptable use of public funds".

Stewart McDonald MP, the party's defence spokesman, said: "Boris Johnson is taking yet another page out of the Trumpian playbook with this cynical move - distracting from the reality of his Government and chief adviser's conduct over the past few months."

There was even a call from the Government benches for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to be spared being lumbered with footing the bill.

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons defence committee, tweeted: "Yes to patriotism!

"But at the tune of £900,000 - Cabinet not MoD should pay."

But the Prime Minister's official spokesman pointed out that the PM was not the only who uses the jet.

He said: "The RAF Voyager used by the royal family and the Prime Minister is currently in Cambridgeshire for pre-planned repainting.

"This will mean that the plane can better represent the UK around the world with national branding, similar to many other leaders' planes, while also retaining its military air-to-air refuelling capability."

The spokesman defended the £900,000 cost, telling reporters: "That incorporates the cost of creating a design that will promote the UK around the world without compromising the plane's vital military role.

"At every stage we have worked to ensure value for money for the UK taxpayer and all of the work has been undertaken in the UK, directly benefiting British suppliers."

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, asked about the repainting costs at the daily Downing Street briefing, backed the outlay on splashing the plane with fresh branding.

"I think that we have always spent money on promoting the UK around the world," he said.

"I see this with creative industries - we genuinely are a creative industries superpower and we should be promoting that and we've done that through the great campaign.

"I think that the work on Voyager is part of that promotion."

Sky News previously reported a defence source saying the paint job sounded like something "from Austin Powers".

Mr Johnson has previously questioned why the plane is grey, saying he would like to have a "Brexit plane" to help him travel the world and promote the Government's vision of global Britain.

He also complained in 2018 while foreign secretary that the RAF Voyager jet, which is shared by the Prime Minister, senior Cabinet members and the royal family, "never seems to be available".