MoD calls for Blair Force One

A new £80 million secure aircraft may be bought so Tony Blair can jet around the world in greater safety, it emerged today.

Proposals for the armoured Airbus come from Ministry of Defence officials concerned for the Prime Minister's safety, according to the Daily Telegraph.

But Chancellor Gordon Brown is said to be sceptical about the benefits of the project, dubbed "Blair Force One".

No decision on whether to buy the aircraft is expected until he has completed his comprehensive spending review.

Each department must submit its own claim for cash by Monday.

Ministers and members of the Royal Family have been ferried around the world by RAF VC 10s for around 30 years.

But the MoD has decided that must end because they need extensive preparation for VIP use and are required for air-to-air refuelling purposes.

Mr Blair chartered a BA 777 on a trip to Asia at the start of the year and when he visited Africa on his latest diplomatic mission last week.

However, defence chiefs reportedly fear security on such jets may be inadequate in the wake of September 11.