Wokingham MP John Redwood has criticised the Government’s hypocrisy over aviation after several Whitehall departments refused to reveal how many flights have been taken by Ministers and civil servants over the last few years.
In a series of Parliamentary Questions, John asked how many flights have been taken by Ministers and their officials in the course of their duties over each of the last three years. Several departments refused to answer, including the Department for Transport, the Treasury and the Ministry of Defence, saying it would be disproportionately costly. The Ministry of Justice stated that it has “no historic record of flights undertaken by the Secretary of State or Ministry of Justice officials”.
Speaking about the refusal of these departments to answer his questions, John Redwood said: “It is ridiculous of Minister to suggest that information regarding the number of flights taken by civil servants is not available. If a private company were to have no knowledge of who has flown at the company’s expense and where, it would be in serious trouble”.
Several departments did provide answers to the questions, including the Scottish Office and the Department of Health.
Figures from the Scottish Office show that the number of flights taken by Ministers more than doubled between 2005–2006 and 2007-2008, and that Ministers and officials took 544 flights in the year 2007-2008.
The Department of Health’s figures indicate that between 2004-2005 and 2006-2007, the year the Government introduced its Climate Change Programme, the number of flights taken by the Secretary of State increased more than threefold, although the department has since then reduced the number back under their 2004 level.
Speaking about the figures, John Redwood said: “These figures are astonishing considering the enthusiasm that some Labour politicians have in wanting us to take the train, not the plane”.
“It is not that long ago an assistant to Ken Livingstone was suggesting that middle class families should be banned from taking city breaks and flights should be rationed. The Government needs to explain why they believe hard-working families taking a well-deserved break will lead to irreversible and cataclysmic climate change, but flights taken by Ministers and civil servants cause no such problem”.
“Yet again, this is one rule for Labour Ministers and Whitehall bureaucrats and another rule for the rest of us”.