The Foreign Office, under the leadership of Liz Truss, is facing questions about its credit card spending, including £1,841 at Norwich City football club online and £10,000 at Fortnum and Mason.
Emily Thornberry, the shadow solicitor, wrote to the Foreign Office asking why spending rose by 45% on its public procurement card between September 2021 and July 2022.
She asked Gillian Keegan, a senior minister, to provide more detail on spending on a range of items, including luxury restaurants and premium home furnishings brands such as the White Company, Ercol furniture and Osborne and Little, a fabric and wallpaper supplier.
The Foreign Office refused to give Thornberry explanations, saying it would cost too much money, so the shadow lawyer published a letter to Keegan. FCDO spending data shows thousands spent on high-end restaurants such as the Cinnamon Club, the Corinthia hotel, Stanley’s in Chelsea and Kennington Tandoori, a famous hangout for politicians.
Thornberry also requested more than £900 for Calm Over Chaos, which appears to provide adult coloring books, and £1,850 for Soul Sanctuary, which may be a wellness app. There were two payments totaling more than £4,000 to a hairdressing company called Finishing Touches, although it is understood this relates to general maintenance rather than beauty.
Thornberry told Keegan that it was hard to fathom the sums spent on “high-end private catering; wellness and beauty treatments; extensive supplies from British wineries; large amounts of home furnishings; and even £1,841 in the club shop at Norwich City”.
Norwich City Football Club is a team supported by Truss. In 2018, as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, she gave a Norwich City football shirt to a US official in Cleveland, Ohio in an attempt to encourage an American football club to move to the UK.
Thornberry said: “We’re waiting to see what response we get, but the overall picture is that the FCDO that she was in charge of was out of control, spending money like there’s no tomorrow, and it’s public money with no accountability.It’s completely shocking and ridiculous.There is a cost of living crisis – why should we pay for some of this high end catering,wine and home furnishings and decorations?
“We expect local schools to raise £40 for this and that and the money is not available. And yet they spend all this money?”
An FCDO spokesman did not comment on the items on the list, but said: “We are committed to spending public money responsibly. Our staff follow set guidelines to ensure procurement is appropriate and achieves value for money for taxpayers.”