By Claire Gordon • 27 January 2022 • 21:10
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has defended chartering a private plane to take her to Australia saying all government decisions are based on “value for money”. Reports have estimated that the flight would have cost the UK taxpayers around £500,000.
Critics have said that the move was a “grotesque misuse” of public money as commercial flights were available, but Ms Truss hit back saying that the government plane was available “precisely so that government ministers can travel”.
“Well, every government decision is based on value for money, we have a government plane specifically so ministers like me in my role as Foreign Secretary can go and do work overseas, which is ultimately delivering for the British people,” she said. The new outrage comes just weeks after Ms Truss was discovered to have insisted upon a £1,400 lunch also funded by the taxpayer.
The Independent reported the foreign secretary had opted for the private flight for her trip last week due to security concerns, although commercial flights were available.
The newspaper said she had travelled on the private government Airbus A321, which a senior source told them would have cost £500,000 to operate. The Foreign Office said the trip was within the rules set by the ministerial code.
They further explained that the private jet allowed the delegation to travel in one group and talk about security-sensitive matters that would not have been suitable for a commercial flight. It also gave Ms Truss the option of returning to the UK early if needed, it is understood.
But Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner rubbished the value for money claims and said the use of the private jet showed “the public exactly quite how little respect this Conservative government has for taxpayers’ money.”
She said: “It is obscene that government ministers are jet setting yet are hiking taxes and refusing to do anything to help working families when they are feeling the pinch of the cost of living crisis.
“Tories waste disgusting amounts of public money on their own vanity and comfort, Labour wants to see families see a cut to energy bills, that is the difference.”
SNP environment spokesperson Deidre Brock added that it was a “grotesque misuse of taxpayers’ money to fund her jet-set lifestyle.”
She said: “With a record like this, Lavish Liz will make a fitting successor to Boris Johnson.”
In a policy paper called Back to Black which Ms Truss co-authored in 2009 she, along with others, outlined how: “Every public sector worker should feel personal responsibility for the money they spend and the money they save.
“They should spend taxpayers’ money with at least the care they would give to their own.
“This change of mindset would be reflected in everyday changes such as travelling by economy rather than business class, to larger-scale changes around focusing on value for money.
“It should start at the very top with MPs reviewing the expenses they have become accustomed to claiming and filter down throughout the entire sector.”
The ministerial code says that ministers can authorise non-scheduled flights “when a scheduled service is not available, or when it is essential to travel by air, but the requirements of official or Parliamentary business or security considerations preclude the journey being made by a scheduled service”.
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