Liz Truss racked up a bill of almost £2m on overseas visits during her final months as foreign secretary, according to new analysis that the Liberal Democrats said showed she had “quite literally been taking the taxpayer for a ride”.
In 20 trips during the first six months of the year, a total of £1.8m was spent, despite the now prime minister’s call for prudence with public money and government departments being told to find “efficiency savings”.
The figure far exceeds the £67,000 her predecessor as foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, spent on trips abroad in the six months before the Covid pandemic, which caused global travel disruption and in-person meetings between world leaders to be abandoned.
The visits made by Truss between January and June included some related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, these were on the relatively inexpensive side when compared with a £454,000 trip to Australia, another to Washington DC that cost £229,000, as well as a tour to Rwanda and Turkey that cost taxpayers just under £200,000.
The costs of trips taken by other ministers in the department were far lower. Lord Ahmad spent £6,787 on a ministerial visit to the US earlier this year, while another such trip, by Vicky Ford to Malawi in April, which included a private charter flight, cost £2,937.
Given the state of strained public finances, Truss has tasked Whitehall departments with cracking down on waste. Last month she told Sky News: “There are plenty of areas where the government can become more efficient. We’re continually reviewing to make sure we’re getting good value for money and I think that’s what taxpayers expect.”
The costs of Truss’s travel prompted accusations of hypocrisy from the Liberal Democrats.
Layla Moran, the party’s foreign affairs spokesperson, said the prime minister “has quite literally been taking the taxpayer for a ride” and asked how she could concoct “cruel cuts to vital public services when she’s been jetting around the world on ludicrously expensive visits, all paid for by hard-working families up and down the country”.
“It’s pure hypocrisy, and shows once again how out of touch she and her government are,” Moran said.
She conceded that foreign travel was part of Truss’s old job, but said the costs were feckless and “startlingly high”, as well as proof that the prime minister “cannot be trusted with public finances”.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said it was necessary for Truss to “travel abroad to pursue UK interests” and the issue “has already been addressed”. The costs of each trip are incurred by the whole delegation taken with the foreign secretary, they said.