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Liz Truss clashes with ‘ridiculous’ Dominic Raab over use of 115-room grace-and-favour home

Dominic Raab was branded ‘ridiculous’ today in a squabble over attempts to cling on to use of a Kent mansion despite being axed as Foreign Secretary.

The 115-room Chevening House is traditionally the grace-and-favour country residence of the UK’s top diplomat.

Liz Truss replaced Mr Raab in last week’s Cabinet reshuffle after he was roundly criticised for going on holiday during the fall of Afghanistan.

However Raab, who became Justice Secretary, is said to attempting to keep hold of the plush pad because he has also been given the role of Deputy Prime Minister. 

He is said to believe that should give him the right to use the house for official visits but Ms Truss believes the property should be hers to use.

It prompted an ally of the new Foreign Secretary to lash out at her predecessor, telling the Times: ‘Liz thinks Dom’s claim is completely spurious, that he’s being ridiculous.

‘Chevening is for the use of the foreign secretary.’ 

A second source added: ‘Chevening isn’t a priority for her … We’ve got an incredibly busy week of meetings in the States and she is focused on getting on with the job.’

The 115-room Chevening House is traditionally the grace-and-favour country residence of the UK’s top diplomat.

Liz Truss replaced Mr Raab in last week's Cabinet reshuffle after he was roundly criticised for going on holiday during the fall of Afghanistan.

Liz Truss replaced Mr Raab in last week’s Cabinet reshuffle after he was roundly criticised for going on holiday during the fall of Afghanistan.

However Raab, who became Justice Secretary, is said to attempting to keep hold of the plush pad because he has also been given the role of Deputy Prime Minister.

However Raab, who became Justice Secretary, is said to attempting to keep hold of the plush pad because he has also been given the role of Deputy Prime Minister.

‘Brexit Towers’ estate is plush ministerial prize 

The Prime minister’s country estate Chequers may get the most publicity, but it is Chevening that causes the most ministerial angst.

Built in the 1620s, reputedly to a design by Inigo Jones, Chevening is surrounded by a 3,500-acre estate with lake and maze. It was bequeathed to the nation on the death of Lord Stanhope in 1967, as a residence for a senior government minister or a royal.

Prince Charles had use of Chevening for six years in the 1970s but did not live there. Since 1980, it has been the home of foreign secretaries.

However, that has not stopped over ministers attempting to wrestle it from them.

During the Coalition government both William Hague and his successor Philip Hammond had to share it with Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. 

Later, after the Tories won a majority in 2015, it was labelled Brexit Towers after it was shared between a trio of ministers.

Boris Johnson was forced to timeshare with David Davis and Liam Fox when Theresa May was his boss.

Downing Street said that to reflect their status in Cabinet, Brexit Secretary Mr Davis and International Trade Secretary Mr Fox would have the same rights of access to the mansion near Sevenoaks as he did as foreign secretary.   

The then Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron likened the situation to the sitcom Fawlty Towers, saying: ‘The three Brexiteers sharing Chevening is a bit like Brexit Towers.

‘The next question is which of the trio is going to mention the war – and will they get away with it – and is David Davis going to make Manuel get a visa.’

A final decision on the use of the property will ultimately be made by Mr Johnson.  

In an awkward first meeting of Mr Johnson’s new-look Cabinet last week, Ms Truss and Mr Raab had to sit next to each other. 

And he endured a tough Prime Minister’s Questions on the subject yesterday, when he stood in for Mr Johnson, who was in the United States.

His Labour counterpart Angela Rayner delivered a series of vicious attacks, including that he was busy squabbling with his colleague.

She said: ‘Families across the country are worried about heating their homes while he’s complaining about having to share his 115-room taxpayer-funded mansion with the Foreign Secretary – the truth hurts, doesn’t it?

‘Just as his Government are making choices that are making working families’ lives harder. 

‘A typical family is facing a tough winter this year: Universal Credit down a thousand quid; rent up 150 quid; gas bills up 150 quid; taxes up and food prices are soaring. Working people will have to choose whether to feed their kids or heat their homes.

‘The choice for the Deputy Prime Minister is will he make their lives easier or harder? So what will he choose – will the Government cancel the Universal Credit cut?’

But Mr Raab replied: ‘She should check her facts as Chevening is funded by a charity, not a penny of taxpayers’ money.’

Ms Truss will today push for Mexico’s support for the UK to join an international trade pact as she visits the country on Thursday.

Liz Truss will travel to Mexico from the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where she has represented the UK with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

It comes after Mr Johnson conceded an agreement with the US was not about to be struck, following meetings with President Joe Biden.

But Ms Truss will focus on the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), and discuss plans to develop a new and updated deal between the UK and Mexico.

In an awkward first meeting of Mr Johnson's new-look Cabinet last week, Ms Truss and Mr Raab had to sit next to each other.

In an awkward first meeting of Mr Johnson’s new-look Cabinet last week, Ms Truss and Mr Raab had to sit next to each other.

Boris Johnson is helped into a rowing boat by then wife Marina Wheeler in 2017 as he hosts Czech Republic's Deputy Foreign Minister Ivo Sramek at Chevening

Boris Johnson is helped into a rowing boat by then wife Marina Wheeler in 2017 as he hosts Czech Republic’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ivo Sramek at Chevening

Jeremy Hunt (and his son Jack, then 8) hosted eastern European foreign ministers at the estate when he replaced Mr Johnson the following year

Jeremy Hunt (and his son Jack, then 8) hosted eastern European foreign ministers at the estate when he replaced Mr Johnson the following year

Mr Raab (second left) with South Africa's minister of international relations and co-operation, Naledi Pandorn (second row, right) at Chevening in May

Mr Raab (second left) with South Africa’s minister of international relations and co-operation, Naledi Pandorn (second row, right) at Chevening in May

The CPTPP is a free trade agreement between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

The UK applied to join in February, and in June the CPTPP announced that the accession process would begin.

Ms Truss said: ‘Closer ties with Mexico are a key part of our plan to strengthen economic, security and diplomatic links with like-minded allies who share our belief in free enterprise and free trade.

‘A trade deal with Mexico, for example, will pave the way for us to join the CPTPP, one of the world’s biggest free trade areas.

‘Our relationship with Mexico has huge potential. It could open vast new opportunities for businesses, support jobs across Britain, and help ensure we play a key role in an open and dynamic Indo-Pacific.’

Ms Truss will also formally open the new British Embassy building in Mexico City, after the previous one was damaged in the 2017 earthquake.

She will also attend a dinner with celebrity British-Mexican chef Fernando Stovell, who has held three Michelin stars and cooked for the Queen.

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