The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss, apparently insisted on a £1,400 taxpayer funded lunch at a Tory donor owned private club against the advice of her officials.
Truss, who recently took on the Brexit portfolio as well, insisted on hosting the lunch at the expensive venue despite being advised to go somewhere more suitable for a meeting with Joe Biden’s trade representative.
Leaked correspondence shows that civil servants were so alarmed at the request for £3,000 in taxpayer’s cash to cover the lunch that the request was referred to the department’s top official.
Truss, who was trade secretary at the time, “explicitly asked that we book 5 Hertford Street”, which is owned by the millionaire aristocrat Robin Birley, a donor to Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign and the half-brother of Zac Goldsmith, the Environment Minister.
In the end the bill was reduced to £1,400 providing immediate payment was made, which meant using an emergency process to make the payment. The receipt is said to show Truss and her companions enjoyed two bottles of dry gin, three £153 bottles of Pazo Barrantes Albarino, a Spanish white wine, and two bottles of the French red Coudoulet de Beaucastel, at £130 a bottle.
The leaked information, which was revealed by the Sunday Times, comes as Truss launches a thinly disguised campaign to succeed Johnson, the current Prime Minister.
The cost of the meal will place further pressure on Johnson and his team who have been accused of sleaze on a number of occasions, as they have of having one rule for themselves and another for the general public.
Labour MP Nia Griffith, referring to the £1,400 taxpayer-funded lunch tweeted: “Yet again Tory Minister seems to have had scant regard for concerns raised by professional civil servants.”
And Luke Pollard alleged: “One rule for the current PM and those wanting to be the next Tory PM and another for the rest of us.”
The lunch in which Truss was accompanied by nine other people, sought to speed up talks for a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington. President Joe Biden has however put the brakes on the talks citing amongst other concerns, the need to abide by the Good Friday agreement. Furthermore he and his team have also refused to lift tariffs on UK steel despite reaching an agreement with the EU.
The venue, 5 Hertford Street hosted Prince Harry’s first date with Meghan Markle, is a firm favourite with Truss who has reportedly used ti to host dinners with potential donors. The loss making club is known to be incredibly expensive and certainly more than what is deemed acceptable within government circles.
A department for trade and industry spokesperson has defended the cost saying that the lunch was with the UK’s largest and most important trading partner.
The information regarding £1,400 taxpayer-funded lunch Liz Truss ‘insisted’ on was according to officials always going to become public knowledge.
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