Parliamentary Trade Envoys

Business and Trade – in the House of Commons at on 2 May 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

What the travel costs of parliamentary trade envoys were in each of the last three years.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Party Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade)

The Prime Minister’s trade envoys provide invaluable support in progressing the UK’s trade and investment agenda in 61 markets across the world. The travel costs incurred by the Prime Minister’s trade envoys were: £63,566 for the financial year 2021-22; £226,014 for 2022-23; and £232,325 for 2023-24. These costs were for flights, for accommodation when the official British residence was unavailable and for other sundry expenses.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

There is a great deal of murkiness about the trade envoys. I note that, in answer to my hon. Friend Kevin Brennan, the Minister point blank refused to deny that at least one trade envoy has explicitly asked for the exclusive use of a house while acting as a trade envoy. The Minister has point blank refused to publish the breakdown of all the trade envoys and their costs for absolutely spurious reasons. If a Select Committee visits South Korea, for instance, all the details of the costs are published, but not if a trade envoy goes. How can we possibly judge whether the £750,000 that has been spent so far in the past three years has been well spent? Is there any accountability whatsoever, or is this really just a means of providing sinecures for people who are liked in Government?

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Party Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade)

Well, there is a lot of bluster there and not a few accusations. The hon. Gentleman may wish to try to stack these things up a bit. It is a cross-party programme, not a Government-only programme. Many Labour MPs, Labour peers and others are members of the programme. Gifts and hospitality are already published in departmental registers. If I may say so, Mr Speaker, two qualifications for this cross-party role are diplomacy and discretion, which might explain why not everybody has been asked to do it.