Downing Street defends Rishi Sunak’s use of taxpayer-funded helicopter to fly 70 miles to Southampton instead of travelling by train or car
- Downing Street says the PM’s choice of transport was the ‘best use’ of his time
Downing Street today defended Rishi Sunak’s use of a taxpayer-funded helicopter to fly to Southampton and back – rather than use the train or a car.
The Prime Minister, who has previously raised eyebrows with his use of aircraft for short journeys, made the trip from London to the South Coast to visit a pharmacy.
It is around 70 miles as the crow flies from the capital to Southampton.
No10 stressed Mr Sunak’s choice of transport was the ‘best use’ of his time due to the ‘pressure’ of his schedule.
But critics accused the wealthy PM of being ‘wildly out of touch’ with the British public and ‘throwing taxpayer money away so he can travel in luxury’.
The train from Waterloo to Southampton Central takes a little over an hour and a quarter, with an off-peak return ticket costing around £53.
The Prime Minister was seen boarding a helicopter in London for his journey to Southampton today
Rishi Sunak, who has previously raised eyebrows with his use of aircraft for short journeys, made the trip from London to the South Coast to visit a pharmacy
Mr Sunak made the visit to coincide with his announcement of plans to expand the role of pharmacies to allow them to issue prescriptions for a number of common conditions.
The PM hopes it will ease the pressure on GPs’ appointments across the country.
Mr Sunak’s official spokesman confirmed the PM – who grew up in Southampton and worked in his mother’s pharmacy in the city as a boy – travelled by helicopter and that the trip was funded by the taxpayer.
‘As you know, his transport will vary depending on his time, where he’s going to make best use of both his time and an interest of the taxpayer,’ the spokesman said.
‘Obviously there’s a lot of pressure on his time and he wants to make the most effective use of that time, so sometimes being able to get to and from places quickly is the best use of his time.’
Mr Sunak was previously accused of behaving like an ‘A-list celebrity’ after he used an RAF jet to fly 250 miles to northern England to promote ‘levelling up’ funding in January.
That was the third time he had used an RAF aircraft in 10 days for trips within Britain.
In March, it was revealed the PM had spent more than £500,000 of taxpayers’ cash on private jets to take him on foreign trips totalling eight days.
Commenting on the PM’s latest use of air travel, Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse said: ‘Being the PM is not an excuse to use a private helicopter whenever you want.
‘No politician should be above using public transport to get around the country – especially for a journey that would take little more than an hour.
‘Rishi Sunak has seemingly abandoned the Government’s environmental responsibilities while throwing taxpayer money away so he can travel in luxury.
‘This is just another example of him being wildly out of touch with the British people.’
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