The Tory leadership frontrunner said she believed in “value for money” when asked whether she would keep Boris Johnson’s No 11 Downing Street flat decor, which was reported to cost more than £200,000.
Her opponent Rishi Sunak, meanwhile, told Conservative members at the final leadership hustings in London that he would set a “clear direction” on ethics in Government if elected, following the multiple scandals that rocked Mr Johnson’s outgoing administration.
Asked by LBC’s Nick Ferrari about the flat refurbishment, Ms Truss said: “All I can tell you is, first of all, I am from Yorkshire, so I do believe in value for money and not buying new things if you have already got things that are perfectly good to use.
“Secondly, I think with the in-tray of issues that you have outlined earlier, I don’t think I am going to have time to think about the wallpaper or flooring.”
The new leader has to set a clear direction from the top. I will reappoint an independent ethics adviser because I think that would send a strong signal that these things matter
A leaked invoice suggested the refurbishment of the No 11 flat cost more than £200,000 – far exceeding the £30,000 annual public grant afforded to the Prime Minister to spend on living quarters.
According to the document, items ordered by Mr Johnson for the flat included a £7,000 rug and 10 rolls of wallpaper costing £225 each, as well as a £3,675 drinks trolley, and two sofas worth more than £15,000.
Former independent ethics adviser Lord Geidt cleared Mr Johnson of breaching the Ministerial Code over the refurbishment after he settled the bill, originally paid for by the Conservative Party, out of his own pocket.
Mr Sunak sought to pitch himself as an ethical reformer of government at the final hustings in Wembley Arena and vowed to fill the post of ethics adviser left vacant by Lord Geidt’s resignation.
Mr Sunak said: “What I would say is when it comes to these ethical issues we can’t constantly be on the wrong side of them.
“The new leader has to set a clear direction from the top. I will reappoint an independent ethics adviser because I think that would send a strong signal that these things matter.”
Conservative former cabinet minister Michael Gove had earlier acted as the warm-up speaker for Mr Sunak and opted to praise Mr Johnson – someone he had asked to stand down as Prime Minister just a few weeks ago.
Mr Gove said he wanted to thank Mr Johnson, telling members: “Let us never forget, and let us make sure the country never forgets, he was the man who delivered Brexit, he was the man who delivered the fastest vaccine rollout in the world, he was the man who stood resolute with Volodymyr Zelensky and the brave people of Ukraine when others wobbled and shirked.
“So, on behalf of all of us, Boris, thank you for your service.”