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Ministerial Visits

Volume 454: debated on Wednesday 13 December 2006

The House may recall that, as I reported last month, I recently returned from the far east, where I discussed a range of international and bilateral issues with Prime Ministers and senior Government Ministers. Our discussions included climate change, sustainable development, security and nuclear tests in North Korea. I also used the visit to promote British business interests in those fast-growing economies. As is usual for ministerial visits, I was accompanied by civil servants on scheduled flights to support me in my role.

We learned last month that the Treasury had spent £56 million on subsistence for travel in the United Kingdom and overseas. Since the Deputy Prime Minister commenced his new role—I do not use the word “responsibilities”, as he has none—how much has he spent, and does he consider that good value for money?

It is clear that when one compares the amount of money spent on hospitality and travel by this Government, it is a lot less than the amount spent by the previous Administration. [Interruption.] Yes, it was, and I believe we get better value for money than they did.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are more than 2,000 civil servants living in my constituency and the surrounding area who provide a national service through the Inland Revenue? Those 2,000 jobs would be at risk if the nationalists stole Scotland out of England.

However many civil servants accompanied the right hon. Gentleman to the far east, is it not an insult to the taxpayer that 20 civil servants have to support him in what has become the non-job of Deputy Prime Minister? Is not the £2 million cost of that a sum that could keep open nearly 100 post offices, and would that not be dramatically better value for the nation?

That is almost as much money as the right hon. Gentleman earns making speeches abroad. [Interruption.] The holder of the position in the previous Administration did less work in Cabinet Committees, did less work than I do, and made it clear to the Select Committee that a Deputy Prime Minister does the job as requested by the Prime Minister. I am happy to do the job that I am doing. I have met more Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers than the right hon. Gentleman has in his job.