Cost of Chancellor's yo-yo flight stays secret for now

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Indy Politics

Questions have been raised about the Chancellor's dash back to the UK to support the Prime Minister's proposal for 90-day detention of suspected terrorists.

Mr Brown left Britain last night for a two day trip to the Middle East, holding talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

But he spent only a matter of minutes in Israel's Ben Gurion Airport before receiving a message from Government Chief Whip Hilary Armstrong, asking him to return.

He jumped on the next available commercial flight to get back in time to vote this afternoon.

The Chancellor will then head back to the airport and take a commercial scheduled flight back to Israel.

Mr Brown said he had been able to re-arrange crucial meetings with Israeli and Palestinian finance ministers and would go back to carry on as planned.

But the cost of the last minute changes to the plan was not divulged by his department.

A Treasury spokesman said: "The Prime Minister puts down a written statement each year in the House, either in spring or summer.

"This details trips by Cabinet ministers which are greater than £500. The last one was put down in July so it will probably be in summer time, in July 2006.

"Obviously, information will be published in due course in the usual way. We do not have the total break-down of expenses."

The spokesman said Mr Brown left the UK last night believing that a cross-party consensus would be reached over the controversial terror law.

But "at the last minute" it became apparent such a consensus would not be achieved.

"Obviously it was an essential part of Government which he has had to come back for," he said.

The spokesman said the fact he had gone to the Middle East in the first place and was returning there this evening showed the importance of his trip.

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