Cook and lover heading for Caribbean island

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No one could accuse them of choosing the most romantic spot in the world. But it would appear that the newest love- birds in government will at least be spending Valentine's Day together.

Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, and his partner and secretary Gaynor Regan are due to be on the volcano-stricken Caribbean island of Montserrat on 14 February to survey the damage wrought by two years of disaster.

When an almighty row blew up over whether Ms Regan would accompany Mr Cook to China, Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, stepped in to ground her. But Foreign Office officials said she would travel with the minister as his "established partner" in future under rules which govern the spouses of all ministers. They are permitted to travel at public expense if it is deemed in the public interest.

Details of the visit to Montserrat have not yet been made public. "There are no plans for her to go," a spokesman said yesterday.

But it is widely known amongst the diplomatic corps that there are plans for the Foreign Secretary to visit Montserrat while on a mission to the Caribbean next month, and sources said yesterday that Ms Regan will join him.

It cost the taxpayer pounds 2,350 for Lady Irvine to share a trip to Trinidad and Tobago with the Lord Chancellor, it was announced last night. The largest element in the bill was for her business-class return air fare from Heathrow to Port of Spain.