Former environment secretary Michael Gove criticised for using plane for 150-mile trip to Cardiff

‘It shows just how much ministers are failing on transport and climate,’ says environmental group

Chris Baynes
Thursday 30 January 2020 19:08
'I am not the prime minister's diary secretary,' Michael Gove says
'I am not the prime minister's diary secretary,' Michael Gove says

Government ministers have been criticised for flying from London to a meeting in Cardiff – a journey that takes less than two hours by train.

Michael Gove, the former environment secretary, was among six ministers who made the 150-mile journey by military plane earlier this week.

They had travelled to the Welsh capital for a Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) meeting with representatives of the governments of Scotland, Wales and Nothern Ireland.

The UK government claimed chartering a flight from RAF Northolt for ministers and their aides was “an efficient and cost-effective” method of transport.

But opposition parties and environmental campaigners said it showed Downing Street needed to take the climate emergency more seriously.

Muna Suleiman, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told The Independent: “If a private plane is really the most cost-effective way to travel 200 miles between two capital cities it shows just how much ministers are failing on transport and climate.

"We’re facing runaway climate breakdown so it’s time that environmentally friendly travel options such as train, bus and bicycle are made cheaper and more accessible.”

Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard told the Daily Mirror: "The government needs to wake up to the climate emergency.

"The UK is hosting the UN's global conference on carbon reduction in Glasgow in November and all government ministers should be demonstrating they get how serious the climate crisis is by using trains and buses wherever possible.

"If public transport is good enough for the public it should be good enough for Conservative ministers."

An off-peak single from London to Cardiff costs from £48 if bought on the day of travel.

Tommy Sheppard, the SNP's Commons leader, accused the ministers of using the RAF as "a private taxi service".

"This is completely unacceptable, verging on the abuse of power. It’s typical of the arrogance of those in power,” he told The Herald.

Mr Gove, who is now Cabinet Office minister, was joined on the flight by Scottish secretary Alister Jack, Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith, Welsh secretary Simon Hart, Brexit minister Lord Callanan, and Parliamentary secretary Chloe Smith.

A government spokesperson said: “Six UK government ministers and their support staff travelled to Cardiff to attend the JMC as well as undertaking other official engagements. They travelled in an efficient and cost-effective manner.”

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments