Sunak spends thousands on helicopter trips since becoming PM

Commutes from London to Richmond constituency by private helicopter would have taken about 2hr 15 by train

Rishi Sunak has taken private helicopter trips to his constituency in North Yorkshire costing thousands of pounds since he became prime minister, the Guardian understands.

The commute to Richmond from a London heliport is likely to raise further questions about the prime minister’s commitment to tackling the climate crisis.

Sunak is understood to have used private helicopters from London on dates in November and December, costing about £16,000. The trips were privately funded.

No 10 did not dispute the use of helicopters and said the prime minister paid for all his own travel that did not pertain to government business. A spokesperson said: “We don’t comment on the prime minister’s travel.”

Northallerton, a town near to Sunak’s constituency home, is on the mainline from London Kings Cross. There are usually more than 30 trains a day and the 200-mile journey takes about two hours and 15 minutes. Booked a day in advance, a single journey would cost about £87.

The prime minister has previously been criticised for his use of taxpayer-funded private jets to visit different parts of the country as prime minister, including three flights over the course of a 10-day period.

In January, the prime minister flew on a 14-seat aircraft to Scotland, then to an event in Leeds and then days later took the same jet to an event in Lancashire for a public Q&A after his levelling-up funding announcement.

Hiring the jet would cost more than £2,500 an hour on the commercial market, according to the aircraft purchasing advisers Conklin and de Decker.

Downing Street has previously defended the prime minister’s travel arrangements as making the best use of his time, denying that rail reliability was a factor in his decisions.

The government has pledged to cut carbon emissions in its drive to reach net zero by 2050. Part of that includes reducing emissions from the domestic aviation market as part of a programme called “jet zero”, aimed at reducing the 7% of emissions that come from the aviation sector.

The suggestion that Sunak has taken private helicopters home to his constituency is also likely to add to the public perception that the prime minister’s net worth of £730m means he is out of touch with everyday concerns, though the majority of his wealth comes through his wife, Akshata Murty, a tech heiress.

In focus groups run by Labour over the last fortnight this has emerged as a key criticism of the prime minister, fuelled by a story last year that Murty had non-dom tax status.

Sunak has admitted using private healthcare, though says he is registered with an NHS GP. The Guardian revealed in November that he was registered with a private clinic in west London clinic that charges £250 for a consultation.


Jessica Elgot Deputy political editor

The GuardianTramp

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