Brussels - Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo said on Saturday that elderly Queen Fabiola's yearly allowance will be cut immediately, after a public uproar over a scheme to avoid death duties.

“The reduction of Queen Fabiola's stipend will be effective right from 2013,” Di Rupo's spokesman said in a statement, referring to a proposed amendment to the country's budget that Di Rupo will put to the parties negotiating a reform of the Belgian state.

The proposed cut, the size of which was not made public, will ensure “that Queen Fabiola's stipend cannot be greater than that of Prince Philippe,” the heir to the throne, the statement said.

Di Rupo, who faced a barrage of questions on the issue in parliament on Thursday, said this would be just “the first stage in an accelerated programme of concrete reforms” affecting all members of the royal family.

Born to Spanish aristocratic stock, the frail widow of King Baudouin faced an unprecedented attack this week from the media, the public and politicians across the spectrum after deciding at the age of 84 to set up a private foundation to provide funds for her nephews and for Catholic charities on her death.

Critics said the queen, who has been paid a yearly stipend of around 1.4 million euros (about R16 million) since Baudouin's death in 1993, planned to funnel the funds to Spanish relatives via the foundation, thus avoiding Belgium's 70 percent death duties. - Sapa-AFP