Labour MP Emily Thornberry asked Liz Truss, then Secretary of State for International Trade, how much her four-night trip to Singapore in December 2020, with three other members of staff, had cost the taxpayer.
Greg Hands, Minister of State for International Trade initially told Ms Thornberry (then Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade) that the trip had cost £25,699.24, saying that flights had cost £23,359.24 and accommodation £2,340. They claimed that no money was spent on internal travel or subsistence and expenses.
But when Ms Thornberry’s office double checked in a Freedom of Information Request, the amended figures were higher. Rather than having spent zero pounds on subsistence and expenses, the Department for International Trade provided a Ministerial Correction stating that £4,034.00 had been spent. They also provided different figures for flights (£20,296.24) and Accommodation (£2980.06), taking the total for the trip to £28,310.03 - more than £2,600 more than the initial figures.
Ms Thornberry asked “How did they go from saying there were no subsistence expenses at all, to saying the travelling party incurred expenses of £1,000 per head, equivalent to £250 per night? And why did the cost of the accommodation go up £1,640 from the first answer to the second?” She added: “I never got answers to those questions, and some will say it doesn’t matter. But this is about character, and if Truss’s natural instinct is to hide the truth and hope no-one asks questions when it comes to small things, don’t be surprised when she does it about big things.”
The original figures Greg Hands supplied to Ms Thornberry were false. It is significant that a correction only emerged when Emily Thornberry put in a freedom of information request. We approached Greg Hands, Liz Truss and the Department for International Trade for comment, but received no response.