My call for transparency over Thatcher funeral cost

MP John Healey has called on the Prime Minister to publish the full cost of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral amid fears the Government will try to hide the true bill.

It follows an appearance on the BBC’s Any Questions on Friday by Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister in charge of organising Baroness Thatcher’s funeral, ‘Operation True Blue.’

Mr Maude said he did not know what would be the cost of tomorrow’s ceremonial funeral and suggested that, when the total cost is released afterwards, the figure will exclude the cost of the many military personnel and police involved – likely to make up a large part of the bill picked up by the public purse.

In a letter yesterday, Mr Healey told David Cameron: “This goes against established practice for the more recent ceremonial funerals of the Queen Mother and Princess Diana, and it goes against your early commitment to be “the most open and transparent government in the world.”

“It is indefensible and demonstrates a high-handed disregard for the public’s right to know the full cost to the country of this funeral, especially at a time when so many people are seeing the austerity effect of your Government’s spending cuts in their communities and in their pay packets.

“With gun carriage, full military honours, the service at St Paul’s and the silence of Big Ben, this is a full-scale state funeral in all but name. The only technical reason for calling this a ceremonial rather than a state funeral is that you have not sought or secured the consent of Parliament for the public funding.

“Neither have you secured the consent of the country for a funeral on this scale. As you know, only one ex-Prime Minister in the last 100 years has been given a state funeral – Winston Churchill. He was a Prime Minister that brought the country together, whilst Margaret Thatcher was one who divided it. He was a Prime Minister to whom people as one nation could pay respect and honour; Margaret Thatcher was not.

“Now you are dividing the nation again over whether Baroness Thatcher is a Prime Minister whose memory and legacy really deserves a national funeral on such a scale and at such a cost to the taxpayer.

“I trust that you will at least ensure that a full and open account of the costs is published afterwards.”

Last week Mr Healey boycotted the tribute debate, saying the Prime Minister had hijacked Parliament for political gain and Baroness Thatcher’s legacy was “too bitter.”

It has been widely reported that tomorrow’s funeral will cost £10m.