DfE paid £9k for minister’s business class trip to Argentina

The academies minister Lord Agnew and three advisers were flown to Argentina this summer at a cost of more than £9,000, government documents reveal.

A record of ministers’ international travel published by the Department for Education lists a “return international flight to Argentina” taken by Agnew and three officials in September this year as having cost £8,122.

Documents show the DfE also spent £314 on internal flights between Buenos Aires and Mendoza for Agnew and the team during their trip. A further £570 was spent hotel accommodation.

Agnew, who as part of his ministerial duties is responsible for encouraging schools to save money, travelled to Argentina between September 4 and 7 this year to attend the first G20 Education Ministerial Summit and a joint meeting of education and employment ministers.

When asked to explain why the cost of the flights was so high, the DfE indicated that they were booked last-minute. It has since emerged that Agnew also flew business class.

According to Google Flights, a last-minute booking for economy flights from London to Buenos Aires next week for four people would cost between £2,800 and £4,200, depending on the airline.

Even those travelling next week in “premium economy”, the next class up, could pay as little as £6,700 for the privilege.

A Department for Education spokesperson said it was “important that the department is represented internationally”, and said that, “occasionally there is a need for our ministers to attend events or visits overseas”.

Agnew made headlines last month when he told school leaders at a conference that he’d bet them a bottle of Champagne that he could identify more potential savings in their schools.

He later defended his comments during an interview with Schools Week, claiming he made them to “stir up a bit of controversy” because schools haven’t been listening to him.

“While we are always mindful of costs, due to parliamentary commitments, sometimes travel arrangements do have to be booked close to the travel date,” he said.

It has also been revealed that almost £1,500 was spent on international travel for education secretary Damian Hinds between July and September of this year.

In September he visited Germany and the Netherlands, at a cost of £1,l54.10, and the Republic of Ireland, at a cost of £335.98.

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  1. I think he owes all school leaders a bottle of bubbles! Cheers m’Lord. much obliged. Fly it out of Gatwick . What could possibly go wrong! If you would rather I would happily settle for a single malt in your palace subsidised bar. Chin chin old fruit . x

  2. This is a complete non-story trying to drum up criticism for its own sake. Do you really expect a peer of the realm (and an old man) to be forced to fly economy long-haul for work purposes to save a few hundred quid? Get real! Bear in mind that Agnew does not get paid a salary, only expenses and purportedly works 12 hour days.

  3. How is this news? How much has been spent of sending Teresa may to Brussels for the last year and a half. Was she eating at McDonald’s when she was there to save money? Why shouldn’t he fly business class? If we want to attract the ‘best and brightest’ to our profession we need to be prepared to pay for them. Personally, I think this represents value for money. We need to be represented on the international stage and we don’t want to be represented by people who just got off a 12 hour flight with a stinking hangover and no sleep. Get with the program.

  4. Of course the flights are going to be expensive . He is just very silly to say he bets a bottle of champagne . It is naive to expect anything less when making silly comments like that. He is old enough to know better.