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Departmental Travel

Volume 455: debated on Thursday 25 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what her Department’s expenditure on foreign travel, including accommodation, was in (a) 1996-97 and (b) 2005-06. (114075)

With regard to ministerial travel, I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) on 19 December 2006, Official Report, column 1808W.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office spent approximately £28.9 million on foreign travel by officials in 1996-97. The figure for 2005-06 was approximately £63.2 million. These amounts include expenditure on transfer and leave journeys of UK-based staff posted to British missions overseas and their dependants as well as for duty visits overseas by officials.

Because we do not retain detailed records of expenditure from as long ago as 1996-97, and because of differences between the accounting systems in use then and now, it is not possible to give a complete explanation for the increase in expenditure. Reasons include:

global inflation over a period of nine years and its impact on the cost of travel;

the redesign of our overseas network so that more staff are posted in the Far East and Asia at the expense of posts in Europe, with higher travel costs; and

the large increase in numbers of staff travelling to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The figure for 2005-06 also includes £12.9 million for Consular crisis expenditure for which there was no equivalent in 1996-97.