Caborn under fire over World Cup freebies

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* John Prescott isn't the only minister facing awkward questions about pricey "research" trips to foreign lands.

The Sports Minister, Richard Caborn, is also under the cosh, after spending almost £14,000 of taxpayers' money jetting out to the World Cup.

Tory MP Greg Hands has discovered that Caborn, pictured, attended no less than five matches, including four of England's sell-out fixtures. His boss, Tessa Jowell, nabbed a ticket to England's other game, against Sweden.

The total cost of transporting them to the jollies in Germany (and providing a room for the night) came in at £13,752.

Although Caborn was officially "on government business", Hands believes the number of trips he took was "excessive" and says he should now foot a portion of the bill.

"It's fair enough for one or two ministers to see how the World Cup's working out, since we are bidding for the 2018 tournament," he tells me.

"But it's excessive, totally excessive, for Richard Caborn to attend five matches at the taxpayers' expense. It's way over the top, and I don't think taxpayers should foot that bill."

"What did Caborn learn from five games that he couldn't learn from one or two? It's an abuse of taxpayers' money."

Asked about the matter, Caborn's office would say only: "It's entirely appropriate that DCMS ministers attend matches involving the England team at the World Cup."

* Chris Eubank's retirement has offered the British public almost as many punch-ups as his boxing career.

Yesterday, the pugilist and reality TV star parted company with his management company, RJH, in acrimonious circumstances.

The firm's owner, Richard Hillgrove, claimed in a statement to have "grown weary of Eubank's eccentricities".

"I wish Chris well," it read. "He's a great talent and was a great boxer. However, for various reasons, he is not the type of client I want for my company."

Hillgrove has helped Eubank through several personal problems of late. Last year, the boxer divorced his wife Karron and went bankrupt, owing £1.3m to the Inland Revenue.

This latest kerfuffle means Eubank will have clocked up more than 30 managers over the years. His new agents, the Irish firm Platinum One, wouldn't discuss the split yesterday.

* Kevin Pietersen is often accused of neglecting sporting duties in favour of his burgeoning media career.

Strange, then, that England's star batsman should be planning to spend this evening at a celebrity cocktail party.

This despite the fact that it's the first night of the Lord's Test, when conscientious professionals ought to be getting a bit of shut-eye.

According to a press release, KP and his pop-star fiancee Jessica Taylor will attend a champagne-fuelled bash at Harrods, as "celebrity ambassadors" of Dubai Properties.

"Kevin checked with England's management," says an organiser. "Because it's a Dubai event, there won't be much alcohol there. Anyway, for all we know, the rest of the England team could be down the pub."

* Lynne Truss has come a long way since achieving fame as the stern face of opposition to the split infinitive.

The author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves is now turning her considerable talents to the stage.

Sam West, the artistic director of Sheffield Theatres, has commissioned her to write a new show for his 2008 season.

"Sam was in a radio play of mine and asked me to write one for him," said Truss, at the 10th anniversary of Profile Books.

"It's about libraries - that's all I know at the moment. I haven't started writing yet, and the plot may change."

I trust her script will be impeccably punctuated.

* Book your seats! George Galloway is about to go back to court - and this time it's personal. A freelance photographer, David Hoffman, has served a writ on "gorgeous" George, after a dispute over his granddaughter's christening.

In April, Hoffman was hired to record the family event at St Stephen's Chapel in Westminster. However, Galloway subsequently refused to pay the £715 bill, claiming Hoffman's work was "inadequate and expensive".

The snapper has now applied for a county court summons, giving Galloway a fortnight to either settle the bill or appear in the witness box. "I actually quite like George Galloway," he says. "But I'm staggered by the arrogance of the man."

The Respect MP, for his part, promises to "strongly contest" the writ, saying: "He ruined my granddaughter's christening."