The Foreign Office, under Liz Truss’s leadership, is facing questions about its spending on credit cards including £1,841 at Norwich City football club online, and £10,000 at Fortnum and Mason.
Emily Thornberry, the shadow attorney general, wrote to the Foreign Office questioning why spending was up by 45% on its government procurement cards between September 2021 and July 2022.
She asked Gillian Keegan, a senior minister, to give more details about the spending on a range of items, including luxury restaurants and premium home decor brands such as White Company, Ercol furniture and Osborne and Little, a supplier of fabric and wallpaper.
The Foreign Office declined to provide explanations to Thornberry saying it would cost too much money, so the shadow attorney general went public with a letter to Keegan. Data on the FCDO’s spending shows thousands spent on high-end restaurants, such as the Cinnamon Club, the Corinthia hotel, Stanley’s in Chelsea and the Kennington Tandoori, a famous haunt of politicians.
Thornberry also queried more than £900 to Calm Over Chaos, which appears to supply adult coloring books, and £1,850 to Soul Sanctuary, which may be a wellness app. There were two payments of more than £4,000 in total to a barber company called Finishing Touches, although it is understood this relates to general maintenance rather than beauty.
Thornberry told Keegan it was difficult to understand the amounts spent on “high-end private catering; wellness and beauty treatments; extensive supplies from UK wineries; large amounts of home furnishings; and even £1,841 at the Norwich City club shop”.
Norwich City football club is a team supported by Truss. In 2018, as chief secretary to the Treasury, she gave a football shirt from Norwich City to a US official in Cleveland, Ohio in an attempt to encourage an American football club to relocate to the UK.
Thornberry said: “We are 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, and spending money like there’s no tomorrow and it’s public money with no accountability. It is completely shocking and ridiculous. There is a cost of living crisis – why should we be paying for some of this high-end catering, wine and home furnishings and decorations?
“We are expecting local schools to fundraise for £40 for this and that, and the money isn’t available. And yet they are spending all this money?”
An FCDO spokesperson did not comment on the items on the list, but said: “We are committed to using public money responsibly. Our staff follow set guidelines to ensure purchases are appropriate and achieve value for money for the taxpayer.”