James Cleverly’s use of £10,000 an hour Succession-style jet ‘ludicrous’

<span>Photograph: Zoonar GmbH/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Zoonar GmbH/Alamy

In the cut-throat world of hit TV show Succession, it is the go-to private jet for the Roy dynasty, providing a backdrop to the programme’s high-level plotting amid luxury leather upholstery.

Now it has emerged that an Embraer Lineage 1000E – lauded as “the crème de la crème of private business jets” – has also been the choice of aircraft for the British foreign secretary, James Cleverly, on his eight-day tour of the Caribbean and Latin America.

The jet costs more than £10,000 an hour to hire, and includes a lounge area with big-screen TV and a master suite for its main VIP, complete with queen-size bed, private bathroom and shower.

Labour attacked the hire of the jet from a German aviation company as a “ludicrous extravagance”, which showed how Rishi Sunak’s government was out of touch with the public.

While cheaper options are available, few would have come close to matching the accolades associated with the Embraer Lineage 1000E. Business Insider called it “one of the best luxury private jets money can buy” while Luxatic magazine described it as “the ultimate statement of wealth”.

Cleverly was tweeting pictures of himself on Monday in the Amazon, part of a tour that has so far taken him to Kingston, Jamaica, and Cartagena and Bogotá in Colombia before scheduled stops in Chile and Brazil.

He was due to use a keynote speech in the Chilean capital, Santiago, on Monday to set out the UK’s future relationship with Latin America.

Although it is not known how many officials and advisers have travelled with the foreign secretary, up to 19 passengers and three crew can be seated on the Brazilian-built jet, which has been chartered from German VIP plane specialists Air Hamburg.

When contacted to provide a quote for the cost of a 10-day round trip to Latin America, taking in two cities, the company indicated that the cost would be about €400,000 (£348,000).

Emily Thornberry, the shadow attorney general, said travelling overseas was an essential part of the foreign secretary’s role.

“But it beggars belief that – at a time when British families are running out of ways to make ends meet – James Cleverly thought it was appropriate to conduct this tour in the kind of luxury jet used by billionaires and pop stars, with British taxpayers footing the bill.

James Cleverly arrives in San José del Guaviare on 20 May, during his official visit to Colombia.
James Cleverly arrives in San José del Guaviare on 20 May, during his official visit to Colombia. Photograph: Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda/EPA

“This sort of ludicrous extravagance at the public expense just shows how out of touch Rishi Sunak’s government are. No wonder their response to the cost of living crisis has been so utterly hopeless when they have such little concept of what ordinary life is like for people in our country.”

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said: “The foreign secretary’s job requires him to travel abroad to pursue UK interests. This was the most time-effective way to do this in this instance. Value for money is taken into account in all travel decisions and costs are regularly published for transparency.”

Ministers will use commercial flights where practical and security considerations allow, according to the government.

Cleverly was pictured meeting the UK’s ambassador to Colombia and other dignitaries at Cartagena after descending the steps of the distinctively marked jet.

His trip came as British embassies across the region prepared to celebrate 200 years of UK-Latin America relations, according to the FCDO.

In Chile, the FCDO said Cleverly would highlight the UK-Latin America partnership on tackling the climate crisis, upholding democracy and human rights and securing free and open supply chains of critical minerals. Latin America, home to 660 million people and with combined GDP of almost $6tn, was also described as an enormous potential market for the UK.

From the beginning of 2021 to the end of 2022, there were 31 occasions where foreign secretaries – Dominic Raab, Liz Truss and Cleverly – chartered private jets or used one of the government’s fleet of ministerial planes to travel overseas, at a combined total cost of £4.6m.

A freedom of information request by Thornberry’s team revealed that on none of those 31 occasions was the foreign secretary accompanied by members of the media or delegations of businesspeople, leaving the taxpayer to cover the entire cost.