Liz Truss under fire after flying by private jet to Australia ‘at a cost to the taxpayer of at least £500,000’ as allies say the Foreign Secretary could not fly commercial for security reasons
- Liz Truss used the Government’s private jet for her recent work trip to Australia
- Reports claim cost of using the Airbus plane would have been more than £500k
- Climate change campaigners have attacked Ms Truss for not flying commercial
- But allies said the flight was justified because of security and need for flexibility
Liz Truss is facing criticism after it emerged she used a Government private jet for a recent work trip to Australia at a cost to the taxpayer of ‘at least £500,000’.
The Foreign Secretary travelled to the country last week for defence and security talks.
The Independent reported that Ms Truss used the Government’s Airbus A321 plane to get from London to Sydney instead of using commercial flights.
Environmental campaigners labelled the use of the private jet ‘shockingly privileged and an outrageous source of emissions’.
But the Foreign Office said the use of the aircraft was ‘fully within rules set out in the Ministerial Code’.
Defending her use of the private jet to travel to Australia, Ms Truss insisted that every trip was based off ‘value for money’ and allowed her to work overseas, which she said ‘ultimately delivered for the British people’.
She told Sky News: ‘Every Government decision is based off 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.’
Liz Truss is facing criticism after it emerged she used a Government private jet for a recent work trip to Australia at a cost to the taxpayer of ‘at least £500,000’
The Independent reported that Ms Truss used the Government’s Airbus A321 plane to get from London to Sydney instead of using commercial flights. Boris Johnson’s RAF Airbus Voyager is pictured
Allies of Ms Truss said it was necessary to use the private jet because of security and to give the Foreign Secretary flexibility should events have required her to return to the UK at short notice.
Why couldn’t Liz Truss fly commercial to Australia?
Allies of Liz Truss cited two reasons for why she took a private plane to Australia: Security and flexibility.
Sources said that travelling on a government plane meant Ms Truss could have private discussions on sensitive security matters.
This would have been almost impossible on a commercial flight amid fears that other passengers could overhear.
The trip to Australia came as tensions continued to rise on the Russian border with Ukraine.
Allies of Ms Truss stressed that she needed to have the capability to return to the UK at short notice just in case the situation deteriorated.
Using commercial flights could have made this difficult and would also have constrained her ability to work during the flight back to Britain.
The Ministerial Code suggests that Ms Truss must have authorised the use of the aircraft.
The code states: ‘Only members of the Cabinet and Ministers in charge of Departments have discretion to authorise special flights either for themselves or other Ministers within their Departments.’
A senior source from the aviation charter industry told The Independent that the trip likely cost ‘at least £500k’ and probably required at least two sets of flight crew.
The website said a business class ticket on commercial flights for the entire trip would have cost less than £8,000.
Ms Truss’s plane reportedly left London Stansted on January 18 at noon as it headed to Dubai before then continuing on to Kuala Lumpur to refuel before eventually departing for Sydney.
It took off two hours after a regular Qantas non-stop commercial flight from Heathrow to Darwin which then continued on to Sydney.
Ms Truss arrived in Sydney just after midnight on January 20, five hours after the Qantas flight had arrived.
Anna Hughes, from environmental charity Flight Free UK, said: ‘Flying to Australia and back on a chartered jet is shockingly privileged and an outrageous source of emissions in the current climate emergency.’
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.
‘This trip used government transport and was fully within rules set out in the Ministerial Code.’
Allies of Ms Truss said travelling on the Government’s plane allowed ministers to have private discussions on sensitive security matters.
They also pointed out that the Foreign Secretary needed to have the capability to return to the UK at short notice to respond to an emergency, for example if the situation between Russia and Ukraine rapidly deteriorated.
Ms Truss is pictured in Sydney last week alongside UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Australian DefenCe Minister Peter Dutton
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour Party, 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. This Government is brazen in its disregard for upholding decency.
‘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.’