The Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, is facing further embarrassment after leaked details suggested that the Ministry of Justice staff outing last month turned out to be an utter fiasco.
Every year the hard-working civil servants are traditionally rewarded with a day at a brewery. However, the trip began badly when managers discovered that the USB stick holding all the invitations had been lost by the private contractor responsible for designing the document. The matter was further complicated when the staff list was found to have been stored on a removable hard drive which was accidentally left on a train. Only after frantic calls to Lost Property departments at stations all over London was the drive returned to the ministry in the nick of time.
Organisers then learned that the laptop with AutoRoute Express on it had been sold on eBay for a fiver, forcing them to stop and ask passers-by for directions to the brewery. When they eventually arrived, an hour later than scheduled, the thirsty staff discovered that a temp had mistakenly booked them into a different brewery on the other side of London. After a detour to somebody’s house to pick up a sat-nav, the hapless workforce finally arrived at the right venue – where anger turned to fury when they discovered that the brewers were closing up for the night.
At this point it was realised that - perhaps fortunately, under the circumstances - the Justice Secretary had been left behind in his office.
The dismal outing was finally abandoned at two in the morning - but, thanks to their minibus running out of petrol because nobody seemed to have the departmental credit card, several disgruntled and sober workers were forced to make their own way home using night buses and taxis.
Mr Straw, meanwhile, was said to have been baffled to wake up from his afternoon nap to find the Ministry of Justice completely deserted, and only found out about the brewery trip when in desperation he rang his private secretary’s office and heard about it on the answering machine.
“Why did nobody in the department tell me about this? It makes me look like a complete fool,” he fumed to reporters while ringing repeatedly on the 10 Downing Street doorbell yesterday morning - sadly unaware that the cabinet was in fact meeting in Birmingham.