- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
A minister has sought to defend Foreign Secretary Liz Truss using a Government plane to fly to Australia - by arguing she had a team of 14 for the trip.
Ms Truss has faced criticism that use of the Airbus A321 official jet, rather than going on a commercial service, was not value for money or environmentally-friendly, especially so soon after the Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow.
However, Chris Philp, minister for technology and the digital economy, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There was a team of I think 14 people going to Australia to negotiate things to do with trade, the Aukus (security) deal, co-operation on security at a time of heightened tension with China.
“There are obviously issues to do with confidentiality. She wanted to have discussions with her team on the way over there.”
But former Climate Change Secretary and Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: “This is a huge waste of taxpayer’s money for a 14-person delegation to Australia.”
Ms Truss has insisted “every government decision is based on value for money”, including using the plane for her trip said to have racked up 22,000 miles.
“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.
Reports estimate the journey would have cost taxpayers around £500,000.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner blasted the decision, saying it demonstrated “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.”
The ministerial code states that ministers may 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”.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “It’s necessary for the Foreign Secretary to travel abroad to pursue UK interests around security, trade and technology, as she did during this visit to Australia.
“Travelling this way allows ministers to have private discussions on sensitive security matters and flexibility to respond to rapidly changing global events.
“This trip used government transport and was fully within rules.”