Liz Truss took a private jet to Australia at a ‘grotesque’ cost of £500,000 to the taxpayer, reports say.
The Foreign Secretary’s journey was branded a ‘ridiculous waste’ of public money and blasted on environmental grounds.
The Independent reported that she chose not to take one of the daily business class flights to Sydney, and insisted instead on flying 22,000 miles ‘to, from and within Australia’ on a private government plane.
She would have arrived more quickly and for at least £492,000 less if she had opted for a business ticket.
This is not the first time that Ms Truss – widely seen as a frontrunner to take over as Prime Minister if Boris Johnson is ousted – has raised eyebrows with her spending.
The latest incident comes after The Times reported earlier this month that the Conservative cabinet minister overruled civil service advice to look for a cheaper restaurant – and instead hosted a £1,400 lunch at taxpayers’ expense.
She spent hundreds of pounds on gin and wine alone at the Tory-linked restaurant in Mayfair, which agreed to reduce the actual cost of the meal from £3,000, the paper said.
SNP environment spokesperson Deidre Brock branded Ms Truss, ‘Lavish Liz’ and called the Australia trip a ‘grotesque misuse of taxpayers’ money to fund her jet-set lifestyle’.
In a policy paper called Back to Black, which Ms Truss co-authored in 2009, she wrote: ‘Every public sector worker should feel personal responsibility for the money they spend and the money they save.
‘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 government’s Airbus A321 is decked out with lie-flat beds and ‘a VIP interior’, The Independent reported, adding that the flights burnt an estimated 150 tonnes of fuel and generated nearly 500 tonnes of CO2.
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The paper was told by an expert that Ms Truss’ January 18 trip would have cost at least £500,000, after it flew from London Stansted to Dubai, then Kuala Lumpur, then on to Sydney.
It touched down five hours after a Qantas plane which left Heathrow two hours before her landed.
The Independent added that the most expensive business-class ticket to cover the entire itinerary – including lie-flat beds – would have cost £7,712 with Qantas.
Metro.co.uk understands that officials believe travelling by private jet allowed the Foreign Secretary to have ‘sensitive’ discussions on security matters and that there may have been issues getting all her officials on the same flight.
She arrived back at Stansted the day before Cop26 president Alok Sharma urged world leaders to ‘honour promises’ on the climate crisis.
Greenpeace policy director Dr Doug Parr told Metro.co.uk that the flight produced in ‘just a few hours as much carbon as 105 UK households generate in a year’.
‘It’s hard to think of a more effective way to both cause planet-heating emissions and wasting taxpayer’s money than flying a minister by private jet all the way to Australia for some glad-handing’, he said.
‘Cutting emissions from aviation is key to tackling the climate emergency, and the UK government should show some leadership, starting with leading by example.’
The journey was also blasted for its cost, with social media users noting that the Conservatives recently cut the temporary Universal Credit uplift of £20-a-week for some of the poorest people in the UK.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said: ‘Liz Truss shows the public exactly quite how little respect this Conservative Government has for taxpayers’ money with her ridiculous waste of half a million pounds on a private jet trip.
‘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.’
Asked to justify the cost and environmental impact of the trip, a Foreign Office spokesman 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.’
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