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Friday, January 28, 2022

More government extravagance

I have never flown to Australia, but if I did, I suspect that the cost of flights would be in the thousands, not hundreds of thousands of pounds. So what is it that makes our Foriegn Secretary so different that she cannot get a commercial flight like everybody else, rather than stiffing the taxpayer for a cool half a million pounds through the use of a private jet?

The Guardian reports that Liz Truss used the private government Airbus A321 for her flight from London’s Stansted airport to Sydney, via Dubai and Kuala Lumpur, arriving on 20 January. Once there, she held talks with her Australian counterpart and gave a speech on arguing global aggressors are “emboldened in a way we haven’t seen since the cold war”:

The Independent, which first reported the transport arrangement, quoted industry sources who put the cost at half a million pounds. One of the daily Qantas flights to Perth and on to Sydney would have been scheduled to get Truss there almost five hours earlier.

After two days in Sydney, Truss flew to Adelaide for a speech, using the same plane, on 22 January, then flew home, taking the same refuelling stops, the following day. A small ministerial and staff delegation would be expected to be onboard.

The A321 is leased by the Cabinet Office at a cost of £75m for two years, according to aviation expert and former pilot Andy Netherwood. Because the plane uses Boris Johnson’s “Global Britain” livery it spends much of its time on the tarmac because it cannot be used by non-governmental customers.

This latest extravagance comes on top of reports that Truss overruled the civil service to demand more expensive hospitality. She is said to have hosted a lunch with Joe Biden’s trade representative at a private club owned by a Tory donor despite civil service advice to look for a cheaper venue.

The paper points out that in the past, Truss has been a champion of eliminating government waste, writing a paper in 2007 for the Reform thinktank arguing for public servants to fly economy class. “Every public sector worker should feel personal responsibility for the money they spend and the money they save,” she wrote.

In this case, it sounds like she could have saved us a lot of money, and a lot of grief for the environment, by just using zoom.
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