MoD chief runs up 23,000 hotel bill and you pay! Outrage at expenses when department faces huge cutbacksBernard Gray ran up the huge bill in his first ten months in the jobEarns 220,000 as Chief of Defence Materiel, in charge of equipmentShadow defence minister says people will be 'shocked' at 'luxurious lifestyle'
00:11 GMT, 13 December 2012
Luxury: Bernard Gray, pictured, Chief of Defence Materiel, has spent 23,000 on luxurious hotels in his first ten months in the job. Shadow defence minister Kevan Jones said Mr Gray needed to 'justify such extravagance' in the face of department cuts
The highest paid civil servant in the Ministry of Defence charged the taxpayer 23,000 for luxury hotel stays in his first ten months in the job.
Bernard Gray, the man in charge of the department’s equipment programme, is paid 220,000 a year – far in excess of the 142,500 earned by the Prime Minister.
Yet he racked up an astonishing 23,000 expenses bill for 106 overnight stays in London and Bristol – at a time when his department is facing huge budget cuts.
The spending on hotels is even more remarkable because Mr Gray’s home is just a 60-mile drive from his offices in Whitehall and the Defence Equipment and Support organisation at Abbey Wood in Bristol.
He also has access to a taxpayer-funded official car and driver worth 49,000.
Had he decided to get a train home from London Paddington to Newbury, Berkshire, it would have cost just 21 for a single fare.
The revelations over the Chief of Defence Materiel’s five-star lifestyle caused outrage as ministers press ahead with controversial cuts that have seen 22,000 troops, warships, fighter jets and tanks axed to save money.
Labour defence spokesman Kevan Jones said: ‘People will be as shocked as they are furious to hear Bernard Gray has been living such a luxurious lifestyle funded by hard pressed taxpayers.
‘At a time when our soldiers in Afghanistan are having their pensions and front line allowances cut, ministers at the MoD and Mr Gray will have to justify such extravagance.
‘Mr Gray clearly does not live by the Government’s old mantra that “We are all in this together”. His local MP does not claim a second home allowance, so why has he run up such a high hotel bill’
Matthew Sinclair, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance pressure group, said: ‘Taxpayers and troops alike will take a dim view of a top MoD official racking up such expensive hotel bills so often.
‘The MoD has handled Bernard Gray’s appointment and contract appallingly badly. The man charged with getting a grip of the procurement budget needs to get a grip of his own expenses.’
Mr Gray, a former businessman and Labour adviser, was appointed in December 2010 to bring the MoD’s chaotic multi-billion-pound equipment budget under control. But between January and October 2011 he spent a third of nights in hotels rather than travelling home.
Fury: Mr Gray's expenses are controversial given MoD cutbacks. He earns 220,000 a year. The Mod said Mr Gray had 'an awful lot of meetings'
He stayed 88 times in the capital, enjoying the ‘stunning’ hospitality at the 360-a-night five-star Sofitel London St James hotel in Pall Mall, a Grade II-listed former bank a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace.
On other occasions he overnighted in the Grange Holborn Hotel, which is described as ‘elegantly composed’.
He stayed over on some nights after being wined and dined by blue-chip defence companies including BAE Systems and EADS or consultants such as McKinsey.
Mr Gray stayed in Bristol 18 times at either the Holiday Inn, Thistle Hotel or the Marriott Hotel.
The limit for civil servants to claim for staying in London is officially 135 a night, according to the MoD.
The row comes just days after it emerged that the MoD had broken Whitehall rules by failing to get Mr Gray’s pay package signed off by the Treasury.
The MoD justified his stays on the grounds that he had a shoulder injury and the journey between home and work would cause ‘significant discomfort’ and ‘impede recovery’. However, he was fit enough to travel to Paris, Cyprus, Italy and the US for business meetings.
The MoD also said that it would be impractical for Mr Gray to spend nights at home in Newbury if he was extremely busy.
‘He had an awful lot of meetings with people in industry,’ said an insider. ‘If he was getting home at 1am and then getting up at 5am for a breakfast meeting he could not do the job he needed to.’
Since November 2011, Mr Gray has received a 2,000-a-month taxpayer-funded allowance to help him rent a London apartment. The MoD is in discussions with HM Revenue and Customs about whether this is a taxable benefit.
An MoD spokesman said: ‘Employees may be reimbursed the cost of temporary overnight accommodation and breakfast when they are absent from their normal place of work on official business and where an overnight stay in a hotel is necessary.
‘Thus it will primarily be when they are away on business but it may also be granted when an employee has to work late, and it is too late to return home.’