British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Thursday defended the use of a private government jet to fly to Australia after she was accused of wasting “disgusting amounts” of government money.
The minister, who met with Australian officials last week, said the government plane was available “exactly so government ministers can travel”.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office said the use of the jet was within ministerial rules. However, the company does not want to say anything about the cost of the flight. The aircraft is leased by the government and each flight is paid separately.
On a trip to Northern Ireland, Truss said: “I’ve used the government plane – that’s why we have a government plane: to enable government ministers to do government business, and that’s why I flew to Australia.”
When asked whether a commercial flight would have been appropriate, she replied: “Every government decision is based on value for money.
“We have a government plane specifically so that ministers, like me in my role as Foreign Secretary, can go and do the work abroad, which ultimately benefits the British people.”
Officials said the use of the jet allowed the minister’s delegation and protection team to travel together and have private conversations on sensitive security issues.
They added that commercial flights were fully booked and that the government jet offered Truss the opportunity to return to London in the event of urgent work.
Angela Rayner, deputy Labor Party leader, said the flight showed “exactly how little respect this Conservative government has for taxpayers’ money”.
Rayner added: “It is obscene that government ministers are jet-setting yet raising taxes and refusing to do anything to help working families when they feel the squeeze of the cost of living crisis.
“Tories waste disgusting amounts of public money on their own vanity and comfort. Labor wants families to see a reduction in energy bills, that’s the difference.”
Under the ministerial code, ministers may travel on 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 affairs or security considerations prevent the travel made by a scheduled service” .
The Foreign Office said: “It is imperative that the Foreign Secretary travel abroad to pursue British interests in security, trade and technology, as she did on this visit to Australia.
“Traveling in this way allows ministers to have private discussions on sensitive security issues and flexibility to respond to rapidly changing global events.
“This trip used government transportation and was completely within the rules.”