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14th September 2021, 20:30

GSD calls for savings on ministerial & parliamentary flight expenses; Government says it's an 'artificial controversy'

The GSD has called on the Government to make savings in official travel expenses, arguing that given the current state of public finances, it is important to find economies where possible.

However, Number Six has accused the GSD of generating an artificial controversy in public, rather than genuinely expressing concerns.

The GSD says it's written to the Chief Minister, in his capacity as Minister for Finance, to ask that ministerial and parliamentary travel on short-haul flights be undertaken on an economy basis.

It says this could potentially save hundreds of thousands of pounds, given the amount of ministerial travel and the accompanying officials.

Shadow Minister for Public Finance, Roy Clinton, says as a parliamentary delegate to an upcoming Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in Belfast, he was surprised to find that delegates have been booked on Club class tickets with British Airways. Mr Clinton says these tickets should be refunded and reissued as Economy.

However, this evening the Government has responded, saying Mr Clinton chose to travel Club Class at a total cost of around £1,100 - while a Minister attending the same conference chose to travel with a low-cost carrier at a cost of only £384. In response to GBC questions, Mr Clinton had said his ticket was chosen and booked for him through Parliament.

Number Six says this area of MPs' international business is handled directly by the Parliament and not the Government, with the funding of flights within the budget of Parliament.

It says Mr Clinton should have raised the matter with the Gibraltar Branch of the CPA, and checked and changed his own travel arrangements. The Government adds it's regrettable that Mr Clinton had chosen to air such an issue in this way, rather than through the CPA branch.

The Government says it's already provided for all short-haul ministerial travel to be economy, other than when the flights are booked urgently at short notice, or to allow working on Government business on a flight with colleagues.

Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, said there is no reason for Opposition members to travel business class as - he says - they are not undertaking work for the taxpayer on the flights, adding he will raise the matter with the Gibraltar Branch of the CPA, to make different arrangements going forward for all MPs.