Airmiles Andy racks up £100,000 private jet bill for taxpayers (after selling his house for £15 million)


Last updated at 16:15 04 February 2008

Prince Andrew was under fire again last night for using taxpayers' money to fund a tour of the U.S. by private jet.

He will enjoy the luxury of a 12-seater plane at a cost of £100,000 on a series of visits in his capacity as the UK's special representative for trade and industry.

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Yet Trade Minister Digby Jones, who is making a similar tour at the same time, will use scheduled flights.

The latest lavish spending of public cash by the man dubbed Air Miles Andy came as it was revealed that he has made a personal fortune by selling his former marital home.

Sunninghill Park, near Ascot, was a wedding present from the Queen in 1986.

It had been on the market for four years and it was thought the prince had finally accepted a "knock down" price of £6-£7million. But Land Registry documents show the 12-bed-room mansion actually changed hands for £15million.

The revelation will intensify criticism of Andrew's fondness for subsidised travel.

For their tour of the U.S., beginning next Sunday, the 47-year-old prince and Lord Jones will both fly from London to Miami on scheduled flights. Then they will split up.

While Lord Jones tours northern states by normal flights, Andrew will be ferried around 60 engagements in the south on a private jet.

His spokesman insisted: "Given the number of engagements this is the only way of doing it."

But Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker said last night: "There is no justification for hiring a private jet. It's just another example of the Duke of York spending taxpayers' money as if there were no tomorrow."

Andrew has previously been accused of using taxpayer-funded transport to hit the ski slopes or the golf course.

In July last year, he spent £6,000 of public money to fly to the Open championship in Scotland. In 2006, he used a helicopter to cover the 17 miles between his Berkshire home and the Farnborough Air Show.

Andrew, who receives £249,000 a year from the Queen, became a trade ambassador in 2001 after serving as a Navy helicopter pilot.

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He currently lives in the Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park, former home of the Queen Mother, with daughters Beatrice, 19, and Eugenie, 17.

Despite market estimates valuing it at £20million, the prince paid just £1million to buy a 75-year lease in 2004.

The Crown Estates waived the annual rent of £250,000 after he carried out a major refurbishment.

Andrew's former home, Sunninghill Park, was built as a gift from the Queen to mark his marriage to Sarah Ferguson, now the Duchess of York.

Its controversial design saw it nicknamed SouthYork, after the mansion in the TV series Dallas.

The Queen retained ownership until 2000, four years after the Yorks divorced, when she signed it over to Andrew.

The house is believed to have been bought by a businessman from Kazakhstan who is thinking about converting it into a hotel.

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