Wales politics

Education secretary's cancelled Vietnam trip cost taxpayers £5,000

Kirsty Williams
Image caption Kirsty Williams was due to visit Vietnam in November

A trip to Vietnam by the education secretary that coincided with an important Senedd vote and was cancelled cost the taxpayer more than £5,000.

Kirsty Williams was due to visit at the same time the Tories forced a vote on an inquiry into bullying allegations.

The Conservatives suspected the cancellation was because of the vote, but the Welsh Government claimed it was due to "other commitments".

Emails show one official saying the reason she did not go was "obvious".

Correspondence disclosed to the Welsh Conservatives show that the costs of the hotels came to £3,937 for Ms Williams and her delegation of three for five nights.

But Welsh Government confirmed that the overall cost of the cancelled trip last November was £5,572.52.

"These emails are a rare glimpse under the bonnet of the Welsh Government's spin machine," a spokesman for the Welsh Tories said, saying the public would be "rightly miffed" at the price tag of the "farcical episode".

"We would suggest the real reason why a cabinet secretary was suddenly recalled to the assembly is because they were whipped into blocking an AM-led inquiry into allegations the first minister may have misled assembly members."

The Lib Dem AM was due to visit Vietnam in a bid to boost student recruitment and research collaboration.

But the same week Conservatives triggered a vote on demands for an assembly committee to investigate bullying allegations against the Welsh Government - an effort that failed because of the Senedd majority of government AMs, who opposed the move.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Kirsty Williams was due to stay in Vietnam with a delegation of three people

A statement drawn up in case of media inquiries showed the Welsh Government planned to say Ms Williams was not able to go to Vietnam "owing to other commitments".

In Welsh Government emails released under the Freedom of Information Act one official said it was "obvious what the real reason is".

A Welsh Government spokesman was asked by BBC Wales if Ms Williams did not go to Vietnam because of the vote.

He stuck to the line that officials agreed last year, saying: "As we have already said, while the Welsh Government organised trade mission to Vietnam went ahead, owing to other commitments the Cabinet Secretary for Education did not attend."

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