William Hague defends the move to fund Margaret thatcher's funeral with taxpayer's money (Reuters)
William Hague defends the move to fund Margaret thatcher's funeral with taxpayer's money (Reuters)

William Hague has said that the public can afford to pay the costs of the funeral of Margaret Thatcher - despite a potential price tag of £9m.

Speaking on news that MPs can claim up to £3,750 traveling expenses to return to parliament to pay their respects to the 87-year-old former prime minister, the foreign secretary defended criticism about the cost of the service as appropriate to commemorate a "historic" leader.

There have been objections to Thatcher's funeral being partly funded by the taxpayer, with many suggesting that the cost of the service should be borne privately.

It was confirmed that Thatcher would not be receiving a state funeral on 17 April, but instead will receive full military honours in the same way as Princess Diana and the Queen Mother.

Speaking on BBC One's Breakfast Programme, Hague said: "It's right parliament meets and commemorates such a leader of historic proportions in our country's history.

"She changed the course of our history and there have been many comments over the last few days from all corners of the political spectrum."

Hague, who was backed by Thatcher when he became leader of the Conservative party in 1997, added: "When it comes to money, the rebate she negotiated for this country from the EU has brought us so far £75bn - which is twice the size of our annual defence budget.

Important principle

"That puts money in perspective so I think we can afford to contribute to a funeral."

Hague added that he believes the reason so many people on the left take a dislike to Thatcher was "they could never beat her".

"They claimed to stand for millions of people but they could never get as many votes as Mrs Thatcher in an election," he said.

One of those who has been calling for the funeral to be "privatised" is Labour MP John Mann. He said: "No ­politician now or in the future should have their funeral paid for by the taxpayer.

"I'm happy for them to have St Paul's but there is an ­important ­principle here. Politicians should not have their funerals paid for by the taxpayer."

Tens of thousands of people have signed e-petitions on government websites and change.org demanding that the funeral is not paid for out of public funds.

Police said they were preparing for potential violent protests at the funeral service and procession.

Fears were raised following the street parties in Leeds, Bristol, Brixton, Liverpool and Glasgow celebrating her death, some of which resulted in arrests and injuries.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "Police are working together to deliver a security operation for Baroness Thatcher's funeral. Given the nature of the event, our operation will use of a range of appropriate tactics.

"We are mindful that this occasion has the potential to attract protest."