Liz Truss defends using government plane for Australia trip

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Liz Truss defends using government plane for Australia trip
Liz TrussImage source, EPA
Image caption,
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss flew to Australia last week for meetings with government officials

Liz Truss has defended using a government plane instead of commercial flights for a recent trip to Australia.

The foreign secretary took the long-haul trip last week for an annual meeting with government officials in the country.

Ms Truss insisted "every government decision is based on value for money", including using the plane for her trip.

But Labour's Angela Rayner accused the Tories of "wasting disgusting amounts of public money on their own vanity".

The Foreign Office said the use of the plane was within the rules set by the ministerial code.

Asked about the report when she was on a visit to Northern Ireland, Ms Truss confirmed she had used the government's private plane for last week's trip.

The foreign secretary added: "That is why we have a government plane to enable government ministers to conduct government business."

Pushed on whether it was a good use of taxpayers' money, she said: "Well, we have a government plane precisely so government ministers can travel.

"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 the work overseas, which is ultimately delivering for the British people."

Government officials said using the government plane meant the UK delegation could travel together, as commercial flights were almost fully booked and would have separated Ms Truss from her team and security detail.

They also said using the jet would allow private discussions on sensitive security matters, and give the foreign secretary the option of returning to the UK early if needed.

'Little respect'

The ministerial code says 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".

But Labour's deputy leader, Ms Rayner said the use of the jet showed the public "exactly quite how little respect this Conservative government has for taxpayers' money".

She added: "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."

A Foreign Office spokesman said it was "necessary" for Ms Truss to travel abroad "to pursue UK interests around security, trade and technology, as she did during this visit to Australia".

They added: "Travelling this way allows ministers to have private discussions on sensitive security matters and flexibility to respond to rapidly changing global events."

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