Speculation over prince lobbying PM over Sea Kings

Prince William in the seat of a Sea King helicopter at RAF Valley, Anglesey
Image caption Prince William qualified at RAF Valley on Anglesey in the autumn

Comments made by the Prime Minister have led to speculation that Prince William may have intervened on the future of RAF rescue helicopters.

An announcement on privatising the Sea King fleet was delayed in December.

David Cameron told the Commons he had been lobbied by people "from all walks of life, if I can put it that way".

However his spokesperson refused to confirm if that also included the prince, who is now a Sea King pilot at RAF Valley on Anglesey.

The original proposals being considered by the UK government would see RAF, Navy and Coastguard crews replaced by pilots employed by a private firm in a multi-billion pound deal.

But when questioned on the issue on Wednesday, Mr Cameron said: "I have been lobbied extensively about air-sea rescue, including by people from all walks of life, if I can put it that way.

"I totally understand the need for good air-sea rescue.

"I think that what matters is not necessarily who is carrying it out but are they fully qualified, is it a good service and is it value for money. That is what we want to make sure happens."

A decision on the sell-off of the RAF Sea Kings had been due in the middle of December, but was unexpectedly delayed.

'No comment'

UK ministers said a "possible issue" had arisen with a foreign consortium's bid to take over running the fleet from the RAF.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said there would be a statement to the House of Commons "as soon as we are able to provide further information and to set out our plans for proceeding to secure the provision of search and rescue helicopter capability in the future".

However, the comments from the prime minister have led to speculation that Prince William may have personally intervened on the issue.

A spokesperson for the prime minster noted that both the prince and Mr Cameron had been Zurich at the beginning of December as part of England's failed bid to host the 2018 football World Cup.

"I don't think we would ever comment on discussions between the prime minister and a member of the Royal Family," said the Downing Street spokesperson.

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