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Budget Surplus Prevents Tax Rise

July 5, 2000

LONDON (AP) _ The government payments that support Queen Elizabeth II in her official duties will be frozen at $11.9 million a year for the next decade, Prime Minister Tony Blair announced Tuesday.

``Very substantial efficiencies″ by the royal household have helped create a surplus of $53 million, Blair told the House of Commons.

Blair added that cost-cutting by the royals had reduced overall spending on the monarchy by 55 percent in real terms over last decade, though he did not announce those figures.

In the last few years, the royal household has tightened its belt, scrapping the royal yacht Britannia and trimming maintenance costs for its handful of palaces.

The monarchy still costs British taxpayers $56 million a year _ including $23 million last year for the upkeep of occupied royal palaces and $13 million for travel.

The settlement pays for staff wages and other official expenses. It is reviewed every 10 years, and the present rate of support has been in effect since 1991.

A lower-than-expected inflation rate contributed $23 million to the surplus. Unspecified royal household cost-cutting saved $12 million, and interest added $18 million.

Not all politicians were so impressed.

``This is a pretty big winter heating allowance,″ said Labor lawmaker Dennis Skinner, referring to the subsidy received by pensioners.

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