Football on the agenda for minister's Rome trip

Official visit coincides with Champions' League final
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Indy Politics

It is quite a coincidence. A government minister clutching two tickets for the Champions' League final in Rome this week has found herself on an official visit to, er, Rome.

Baroness Taylor's defence brief could have sent her anywhere else in the world at the drop of a hat. But she will now be able to travel to Italy at taxpayers' expense and stay at the ambassador's residence for three days before watching Manchester United take on Barcelona at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday. And her son will go, too.

Gordon Brown's luckiest minister was accused last night of arranging an "official" visit to Italy this week so she could take her son to see European football's blue-riband event. Baroness Taylor will cover the costs of her son's trip. But the taxpayer will pay for her flight to Rome tomorrow and her four-day stay at the Villa Wolkonsky, the British Ambassador's residence.

British officials in Rome said the full details of the trip were still being finalised, less than 48 hours before the minister arrives.

But diplomatic sources in the Italian capital claimed the trip had been arranged as a "cover", to coincide with the big match. One said: "The embassy has just been asked to provide accommodation with the ambassador and a programme to justify the junket."

A number of other MPs, including Parliamentary Labour Party chairman Tony Lloyd, are also travelling to Rome – although they insisted they would be paying for themselves.