Page last updated at 17:36 GMT, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Perks cut for British diplomats in 13m economy drive

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The ambassador's reception might not be quite so lavish in future as Chancellor Alistair Darling forces Britain's diplomats to tighten their belts.

Britain's representatives around the world are to be stripped of perks totalling £13m a year.

In future, embassy staff will have to travel economy class on flights under five hours - and not claim as much for their children's private education.

There will also be a wholesale reform of their expenses system.

The changes - which are hidden away in a footnote to the pre-Budget report - are likely to cause "gnashing of teeth in embassies across the world", says the BBC's deputy Political Editor James Landale.

According to 2007 figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, educating children of Foreign Office diplomats costs UK taxpayers £20m a year.

Most of the 540 children educated privately were at boarding schools, the figures revealed, including a handful at top public schools such as Eton, Winchester and Roedean.

The Foreign Office says its staff can be moved anywhere at short notice and while it normally insists children are educated in the country to which their parents have been posted, some have boarding school fees paid to avoid disrupting their education.

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