UK Politics

Labour MP defends Prince Harry helicopter comments

Labour MP Emma Dent Coad Image copyright PA
Image caption Emma Dent Coad was elected MP for Kensington in June

A Labour MP who claimed Prince Harry cannot fly a helicopter has defended her comments.

Emma Dent Coad, who reportedly made the remarks at a Labour fringe event, said she was told "it's an absolute fact", but added that she could not prove it.

The MP for Kensington - which includes Kensington Palace - told the BBC taxpayers should not fund the monarchy.

Prince Harry qualified as an Apache helicopter commander in 2013. The Labour Party has declined to comment.

The MP, who was elected in June, told the BBC's Daily Politics: "Somebody else will tell me whether or not that's true but I've been told that's an absolute fact that somebody sits beside him and drives the helicopters for him."

John Woodcock, former chairman of Labour's backbench defence committee, issued a statement saying the "highly inaccurate comments" did not reflect the views of his party.

He said the prince deserved "praise and respect" for his service in the armed forces.

"I am really sorry this happened," he added.

Image copyright PA

Kensington Palace has not commented.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said she was more interested in the contribution the Royal Family makes to the UK.

"We have different views in the Labour Party... but I actually think Prince William and Prince Harry have made the royal family more trendy again. I think there is a role for them - they're part of the staple British diet," she told the BBC.

Prince Harry served in the Army for 10 years, undertaking two tours of Afghanistan.

Harry is currently in Toronto for the Invictus Games - the sporting tournament for injured service personnel that he founded in 2014.

Defence minister Tobias Ellwood invited Ms Dent Coad to go the games, adding: "Learn how it started... and who inspires our injured heroes".

'Archaic system'

In an interview with the BBC, Ms Dent Coad questioned why the UK - as a modern democracy - was "buying into this archaic system".

"The immediate issue is why we are paying an absolute fortune in tax to people who are already very comfortably off for them to do charity work - which they do excellently - but half of north Kensington is doing charity work for nothing," she said.

Asked whether she called the Royal Family "ridiculous", she said: "I think my point was that the system is ridiculous.

"I don't know them, I'm sure they're perfectly decent human beings. My point is why are we paying taxes for that - and I did ask, would they get the job if they applied for the job?"

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