British royal PRINCE ANDREW is under investigation by the UK government after spending $617,500 (GBP325,000) of taxpayers' money on hiring luxury helicopters and jets.

Britain's NATIONAL AUDIT OFFICE published extracts from a report on Sunday (23JAN05), claiming the DUKE OF YORK has squandered thousands of pounds on extravagant transportation instead of train services, which he claimed were "unreliable".

During his year as captain of St Andrews Golf Course in Fife, Scotland, from 2003 until 2004, the 44-year-old royal spent $60,800 (GBP32,000) flying from his home in Berkshire, England, to the course.

Member of Parliament (MP) IAN DAVISON, who contributed to the commissioning of the report, says, "The Royal Family must understand that there is not a bottomless pit of money, they cannot simply request transport when they see fit. There must be a regard for the value and need for that journey.

"We are not saying that in all cases taking private helicopters and jets should be ruled out. If he was travelling to a meeting in Northern Ireland when the troubles were on-going, I would expect him to fly with the Raf (Royal Air Force) for security reasons. But it must be case of the royals striking the right balance."

A spokeswoman from the Prince's mother Queen Elizabeth II's Buckingham Palace residence, responds, "The National Audit Office has totally exonerated the Duke Of York from inappropriate use of public funds in use of transport for official engagements."

24/01/2005 13:56