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Rishi Sunak used jet for Leeds hospital visit

Time and date:2010-12-5 17:23:32  author:Press center9   source:Press center7  view:  comment:0
Content summary:Critics say the PM's choice of taxpayer-funded transport clashes with his climate pledges. network

Downing Street has defended Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's use of a jet to visit a hospital as "appropriate" given his busy schedule.

His spokesman said flying to Leeds when visiting a healthcare centre was the "most effective use of his time".

But critics say Mr Sunak's choice of taxpayer-funded transport clashes with his pledges to curb climate change.

The 200-mile (321-km) trip from London to Leeds would have taken about two-and-a-quarter hours by train.

Mr Sunak was pictured boarding an RAF plane on Monday morning ahead of his visit to Rutland Healthcare Centre to meet patients and carers, as the NHS is gripped by a winter crisis.

There were no train strikes on Monday, meaning services were running as normal after a wave of walkouts across the sector last week and in December.

On Tuesday, passengers travelling from London to Leeds could buy a return train ticket in standard class for about £100.

Labour mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin said Mr Sunak's decision to take a jet instead of a train was "a damning verdict on our public transport network" in northern England.

In his speech at the COP27 climate summit last year, Mr Sunak said it was "morally right to honour" the UK's promises on reducing carbon emissions.

The UK has set a legally binding target of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, as part of the global effort to avert the worst effects of climate change.

Air travel accounts for 22% of the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions from transport, and 7% of the UK's total emissions overall.

Green MP Caroline Lucas said the prime minister's use of a plane incurred an "unacceptable cost to both the taxpayer and the climate".

"It is utterly indefensible for Tory ministers to make such short journeys by jet when far cheaper and much less damaging options are readily available," she said.

"This out of touch prime minister has his head in the clouds yet again."

The prime minister was picture boarding one of the RAF's Dassault Falcon 900LX aircraft.

That plane is cited as having fuel consumption of about 260 gallons per hour (consumption figures are generally given in US gallons), according to several aviation websites.

The journey from London to Leeds yesterday took 36 minutes, while the flight back was 37 minutes - according to a flight tracking website.

That's a total of one hour and 13 minutes, which means approximate fuel consumption of 316 gallons or about 1200 litres.

From the government's conversion factors, that would mean emissions of about three tonnes of CO2.

We don't know how many people travelled to Leeds with Mr Sunak. The plane may be laid out to have 14 seats, which would mean 214kg per person for the return journey if it had been full.

The LNER website gives emissions for a return train trip from London to Leeds of 24kg per person.

BBC News asked No 10 whether Mr Sunak offset the emissions from the flight but it would not comment on this.

In a tweet, SNP MP Tommy Sheppard said Mr Sunak's use of a plane made "a mockery of his climate pledges".

Labour's deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said households struggling with living costs would be "rightly angered by this show of extravagance by Rishi Sunak".

The Labour MP urged the prime minister to "come clean about how much taxpayers' money was wasted on this 36-minute plane journey for a three-hour visit at the height of a cost-of-living crisis".

But defending the prime minister, his official spokesman said he used different modes of transport, "enabling him to get around the entirety of the UK when there's a great deal of pressure on his time".

"It will vary on what is the most appropriate use," the spokesman said.

Last year, Mr Sunak was branded "out of touch" after a newspaper report said he had paid more than £10,000 to fly by private helicopter to a Tory dinner in Wales.

Some of Mr Sunak's recent predecessors - including Boris Johnson and David Cameron - also came under scrutiny for using domestic flights.

Mr Johnson was criticised for using planes to travel back from the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in 2021, and a weekend away with his family in Cornwall in 2022.

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