Labour Accuses Ministers Of Living 'Luxury Lifestyle' At Taxpayers’ Expense

Dossier reveals lavish spending on government debit cards.
The government procurement cards are used to cover spending by civil servants.
The government procurement cards are used to cover spending by civil servants.
SOPA Images via Getty Images

Taxpayers’ money has been used to fund five-star hotels for ministers “living the high life” on overseas trips, Labour has claimed following an analysis of government spending.

In July 2021, the Treasury, then under Rishi Sunak, spent £3,217 on accommodation at the five-star Hotel Danieli in Venice, and £1,361 at the four-star Hotel Bonvecchiati, for the then chancellor and 11 other government representatives at a G20 meeting.

Tory party chairman Greg Hands stayed in a £318-a-night five-star hotel in Germany while he was energy minister in July 2022, while Alok Sharma’s 66 trips as president of the Cop26 climate summit cost taxpayers £220,817 just for his own travel and hotels.

The details were uncovered through analysis of official figures and a string of parliamentary questions on the use of government procurement cards (GPCs), with Labour promising to publish a dossier on their use on Monday.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “As Conservative ministers once again reach into the pockets of taxpayers to dine out on five-star luxury lifestyle, families up and down the country are sick with anxiety about whether their pay cheque will cover the weekly shop.

“Britain is facing the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades and Rishi Sunak doesn’t seem to have noticed.

“Far from actually governing, Conservative ministers are living the high life and treating taxpayers like a cash machine.

“A Labour government will get tough on waste, with an Office of Value for Money upholding transparency and high standards for all public spending, including on government procurement cards.”

The findings show Lord Grimstone, a former business and trade minister, and an aide stayed at the Ritz-Carlton in Jeddah in October 2021 while attending the Saudi Investment Initiative, at a cost of £3,041 for four nights’ accommodation, or £760 per night.

Labour acknowledged that overseas travel is an essential part of the job for many ministers and officials and they should be able to stay in hotels where they can get a good night’s sleep and be safe, but insisted the most cost-effective options should be chosen.

The opposition’s investigation also uncovered evidence of large sums spent on domestic travel.

The Treasury hired a £3,600 chauffeur service for ministers and officials visiting Cop26 around the Finance Day addressed by then chancellor Mr Sunak on November 3 2021, claiming that no government cars were available.

In May 2022 then home secretary Priti Patel and an aide spent a combined total of £823 on two return train tickets to Stoke, described in the Home Office’s accompanying GPC transparency data as necessary expenditure for “urgent ministerial meetings”, even though it was a scheduled Cabinet away day.

A senior Conservative source said: “Awkwardly for Labour HQ they’ve forgotten that they introduced these ‘civil servant credit cards’ in 1997.

“By 2010 Labour was spending almost £1 billion of taxpayers’ money on everything from dinners at Mr Chu’s Chinese restaurant to luxury five-star hotels.

“The Conservatives swiftly stopped their absurd profligacy, cutting the number of cards, introducing a requirement for spending to be publicly declared and putting in place controls.

“Typically, Labour’s ‘big idea’ is to spend millions of taxpayer cash to establish yet another quango, stuff it with thousands of bureaucrats and give them gold plated pensions.”


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