Liz Truss accused of ‘misuse of taxpayers’ money’ after taking £500k private flight to Australia

The Foreign Secretary is said to have opted for the private flight to Australia due to security concerns

<p>Foreign Secretary Liz Truss took a private jet to Australia which would have cost half a million pounds. (Credit: Getty)</p>

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss took a private jet to Australia which would have cost half a million pounds. (Credit: Getty)

Liz Truss has been criticised following reports she chartered a flight to Australia at a cost of £500,000 to the taxpayer.

The Independent reported the Foreign Secretary had opted for the private flight for her trip last week due to security concerns, although commercial flights were available.

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The newspaper said she had travelled on the private government Airbus A321, which a senior source told them would have cost £500,000 to operate.

Ms Truss, who was visiting Australian government officials and giving a speech in Adelaide, has been criticised by many including environmentalists, after it was found that her private flight burnt an estimated 150 tonnes of fuel.

At a glance: 5 key points

  • The UK Foreign Secretary opted for a private flight to Australia which would have cost of £500,000 to the taxpayer
  • Liz Truss chose to charter the flight rather than fly on the daily scheduled Qantas London to Sydney departure
  • The reason for this is believed to be that the Foreign Secretary cited “security considerations” over fears that other passengers would overhear conversations
  • The flight on the private Airbus A321 to and from Australia is thought to have burned around 150 tonnes of fuel and generated almost 500 tonnes of C02
  • The decision taken by Ms Truss has been criticised by environmentalists, who said the private flight was an “outrageous” output of emissions

What flight did Liz Truss take to and from Australia?

Ms Truss used the private government Airbus A321 to fly 22,000 miles to Australia in a journey which began on 18 January.

Despite there being a scheduled Qantas flight due to take off at Heathrow two hours before the private jet took off, the Foreign Secretary still chose to fly privately.

The aircraft is decorated with a VIP interior, including beds, and the Ministerial Code notes that only the Foreign Secretary can authorise such as flight.

The flight, coded as XT645, first flew to Dubai where it was refueled during a 90-minute stopover.

The private jet then flew overnight to Kuala Lumpur, where it was once again refueled before reaching the final destination in Sydney at midnight on 20 January.

Ms Truss landed five hours behind the business-class Qantas flight.

During her stay, she was required to travel to Adelaide for a speech, which she flew to on the jet.

On the return leg, Ms Truss’ private flight followed a Qantas commercial flight, which had taken off on the same route just 17 minutes prior.

The flight again refuelled in Kuala Lumpur and Dubai, and arrived back in London at 1.20pm on 23 January - nine hours after the commercial flight landed.

While the cost of the private chartered flight was believed to £500,000, the highest price of a ticket on the commercial flight was £7,712.

Foreign Office officials have defended the use of the private flight, insisting that Ms Truss would have been separated from her delegation if she were to use a commercial flight and that conversations between them were on sensitive security matters, also adding that all commercial flights were fully booked.

A spokesperson 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 set out in the Ministerial Code.”

Backlash from environmentalists

Not only did the private flight cost the taxpayer around half a million pounds, but the jet also emitted huge amount of climate-harming C02.

It is believed that the flight as described would have used 150 tonnes of fuel during the departing and returning leg, as well as emitting 500 tonnes of C02.

Ms Truss has been blasted by environmentalists for her decision.

Anna Hughes, director of environmental charity Flight Free UK, branded the Foreign Secretary as “privileged” and said that Ms Truss has ignored the actions which need to be taken to combat the climate crisis.

She said: ”Liz Truss has consistently demonstrated her lack of understanding about the action that we all need to take to address the climate crisis, and this is no exception.

“Flying to Australia and back on a chartered jet is shockingly privileged and an outrageous source of emissions in the current climate emergency.”

What else has been said?

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said the use of the private jet showed “the public exactly quite how little respect this Conservative Government has for taxpayers’ money”.

She said: “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.”

SNP environment spokesperson Deidre Brock added that it was a “grotesque misuse of taxpayers’ money to fund her jet-set lifestyle”.

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