Rishi Sunak has defended his use of private jets for trips within the UK, saying it was “the most efficient use of my time”.
The prime minister has faced growing criticism for taking non-commercial flights instead of using more sustainable transport when heading out of Downing Street to make announcements or carry out visits.
Recent examples that saw him come under fire from climate campaigners and opposition MPs included a trip by helicopter to Dover, which would have taken just over an hour by train, and another helicopter ride to Southampton, which would come in at one hour 14 minutes by rail.
Some journeys are covered by the taxpayer, while others are understood to be paid for by Conservative Party donors.
Ahead of a trip to Scotland on Monday – where he is announcing new oil and gas drilling licenses amid ongoing rows about climate commitments in his party – Mr Sunak was asked by a BBC radio presenter if he planned to use a private jet to get to the country.
He replied: “I’ll be flying as I normally would and that is the most efficient use of my time.”
The prime minister then launched into a more defensive response, telling BBC Radio Scotland: “But again I think actually that question brings to life a great debate here.
“If you or others think the answer to climate change is getting people to ban everything that they are doing, to stop people from flying, to stop people going on holiday, I think that is absolutely the wrong approach.”
Mr Sunak added: “Every prime minister before me has also used planes to travel around the United Kingdom because it is an efficient use of time for the person running the country so I can keep focusing on delivering for people.
“But if your approach to climate change is to say no one should go on a holiday, no one should [go on] a plane, I think you are completely and utterly wrong – that is absolutely not the approach to tackling climate change.”
Presenter Martin Geissler said there was “a difference between using a private jet and taking a [commercial] flight”.
But the prime minister continued: “What we are doing is investing in sustainable aviation fuel as one of the new technologies like carbon capture and storage which will help us make the transition.
“It is not about banning flying, it is about investing in new technologies like sustainable aviation fuel that will make flying more sustainable, that’s the right approach to this.”
Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson, Wera Hobhouse, attacked Mr Sunak’s travel choices.
“The prime minister just cannot help himself,” she said. “He should try catching a train for once to see what kind of service the rest of us have to put up with.
“When you are catching private flights to Southampton and Dorset, you know you have a problem.
“Every time he indulges in his addiction to private jets and helicopters it is a slap in the face to so many who put up with rail delays and potholes on the roads.”
(Source: Sky News)