'Jet-setting' government clocked up 300 million air miles last year

Ministers were accused of hypocrisy and extravagance after the Conservatives calculated that Whitehall departments and major public bodies clocked up more than 300 million "air miles" last year.

The Tories said the flights would have been enough to take politicians and civil servants to the moon 1,280 times or make 12,240 journeys around the world.

The figures came after the Sustainable Development Commission, an environmental watchdog, warned the Government that it urgently needed to "raise its game" to reduce its environmental footprint. It called on Whitehall to set a target for cutting air travel in favour of greener alternatives.

The Tories calculated the total journeys by public bodies after obtaining details of the amount of carbon offsetting by the Government in 2006-07. It was the first time Whitehall has disclosed the figures for carbon offsetting.

The highest air travel totals were recorded by the Foreign Office (90.5 million miles), the Ministry of Defence (43.4 million, excluding military travel) and the Department for International Development (42.2 million).

But several largely domestic departments also ran up large totals. The Cabinet Office, including Downing Street, accumulated 38.5 million miles, HM Revenue and Customs staff covered 17.3 million miles and the Home Office accounted for 9.4 million miles.

Ministers and officials from the Department for Communities and Local Government covered 555,000 miles travelling to four continents, while the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs covered 1,658,000 miles to the likes of Thailand and Australia.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police travelled 16.9 million miles, Transport for London 1.6 million miles and the Greater London Authority 637,000 miles.

The Tories estimated the total travel by ministers and civil servants over the period to be 306 million miles. They claimed the price of the tickets to the taxpayer would have been £50m, excluding expenses such as hotel bills and the cost of food. Francis Maude, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, said: "Ministers – and Ken Livingstone – are failing to practise what they preach on the environment, as they and their civil servants jet around the world on foreign jaunts. Labour ministers should start showing some social responsibility and set clear targets to reduce unnecessary travel, in order to reduce carbon emissions and save taxpayers' money."

Tony Bosworth, senior transport campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: "Tackling aviation growth is essential to cutting climate change emissions. The Government should be setting an example and not use planes where there are good rail alternatives available."

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said: "The Government would never indulge in unnecessary air travel, but no one should try to suggest Britain's interests can only be pursued over the phone. For example, Defra sent delegations to important international environmental talks, helping to secure crucial environmental commitments."

The Independent disclosed last week that two thirds of cabinet ministers travel in vehicles occupying the top emissions bands.

Favourite destinations

Between April 2006 and December 2007, ministers and staff from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and its agencies spent £1.8m on 2,361 separate flights to foreign countries

Australia £59,124

Austria £29,308

Belgium £59,889

Brazil £90,620

Canada £67,618

China £115,579

Denmark £22,220

Ethiopia £9,578

Finland £46,203

Germany £82,411

Hong Kong £26,770

India £109,694

Indonesia £104,045

Japan £71,898

Kenya £127,938

Luxembourg £30,090

Mexico £92,301

Switzerland £34,456

Thailand £39,160

United States £316,751

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms