The head of the government department responsible for promoting British business abroad asked officials to think of ways to spend up to £1 million to avoid a budget underspend, it was reported.
Sir Andrew Cahn, until this week head of UK Trade & Investment, said in an email to senior colleagues that the Foreign Office was “heading for an underspend and wants to get money out of the door”, the Daily Mail reported.
He added: “If we can spend money in this financial year on a one-off basis, then we can have at least £1 million. Can you think what we might do with such money?”
One suggestion was to offer “business development visits” to the UK by staff based abroad.
The newspaper said the email exchanges took place in November following the coalition’s Comprehensive Spending Review, setting out cuts across the board to reduce the Government’s budget deficit.
Shadow foreign secretary Yvette Cooper told the newspaper that “William Hague’s financial planning seems to be in chaos”.
She said: “The Foreign Secretary has cut spending on long-standing programmes dealing with the fight against international drugs and crime, at the same time as his department is rushing to ‘get money out the door’.
“At a time when jobs and livelihoods in Britain are being put at risk by government cuts, the Foreign Office needs to show it has a proper grip on its priorities and financial plans.”
A spokeswoman for UKTI said: “The Government does not comment on leaked documents. Government spend is subject to rigorous value for money checks to ensure appropriate return for taxpayer funding.
“All of UKTI’s services are subject to independent assessment. For every £1 of taxpayers’ money spent, our customers tell us that this generates £19 of additional profit for their businesses. UKTI has not drawn any additional resource from the FCO this financial year.”