Liz Truss has been criticised after flying on a private jet instead of a commercial flight – again.
This time, the foreign secretary’s trip to Brussels could have been done within two hours by direct train, The Independent has reported.
Instead, Truss tweeted a photograph of herself descending from the government’s private plain, saying she arrived in Belgium’s capital to co-chair a meeting on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic.
Direct train between London and Brussels
“We continue to work intensively to find practical solutions that preserve peace and stability in Northern Ireland and protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement,” she said.
Twitter users suggested Truss could have taken a direct train between London and Brussels, which takes an average time of one hour and 53 minutes – instead of choosing one of the planes used by the goverment and the Royal Family, which can hold up to 112 seats.
The return trip produced around 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide, whilst a Eurostar train journey releases over 90 per cent less emissions than an equivalent flight.
But according to the government’s Foreign Office (FCDO), Truss would have been unable to fit in her scheduled meetings had she travelled by train, as well as not had the privacy to discuss sensitive security problems during the journey.
Response from government’s Foreign Office
An FCDO spokesperson told The Independent: “We have government planes specifically so ministers, including the foreign secretary, can work while travelling. This is standard practice and in the national interest.
“Commercial travel options were not possible for this trip due to the foreign secretary’s busy schedule, and would have been more expensive.”
Simon Clarke, who is Chief Secretary to the Treasury, defended Truss’s spending on national TV.
Tory MP defended Truss after another private jet trip last moth
Ed Balls quoted the Foreign Secretary back in 2007, when she told a thinktank: “Every public sector worker should feel personal responsibility for the money they spend and the money they save. They should spend taxpayers’ money with at least the care they would give to their own.
“This change of mindset would be reflected in everyday changes, such as travelling by economy, rather than business class.”
But Balls said that last week Truss decided to not even travel business class to Australia, and instead spent £500,000 on a return flight to Australia.
“She could have saved huge amounts of taxpayers’ money by going business class, let alone economy class,” Balls said, adding: “As the chief secretary, what have you said to the Foreign Office, have you said to them, get a grip to the way in which we’re spending public money?”
Clarke replied: “No, we have a government plane to conduct government business in the way that all major nations do and I think that’s right and appropriate.”