'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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower