Taxpayers Foot Bill For Rishi Sunak Helicopter Ride To Photo Op

Prime minister's trip to Southampton would have taken a little over an hour by train.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak has his blood pressure checked during a visit to a GP surgery and pharmacy on the south coast.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak has his blood pressure checked during a visit to a GP surgery and pharmacy on the south coast.
BEN BIRCHALL via Getty Images

Rishi Sunak has made getting control of the public finances one of his priorities as prime minister – but prudence doesn’t seem to have been top of mind when taking a short trip by taxpayer-funded helicopter.

On Tuesday, the PM flew to Southampton and back to London as he visited a pharmacy on the south coast.

Downing Street said taking the aircraft was justifiable as it made the most effective use of his busy schedule.

Sunak told receptionists at Weston Lane Surgery he would be going on to visit his family in Southampton, the city where he grew up.

The train from Waterloo to Southampton Central takes a little over an hour and a quarter, with an off-peak return costing around £53.

The prime minister’s official spokesman confirmed Sunak 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 official 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.”

Two Range Rovers were seen picking Sunak up after he got his blood pressure checked while promoting his policy of allowing pharmacists to prescribe medications for seven common ailments in a bid to free up GP appointments.

He has in the past been accused by Labour of “jetting around the country on taxpayers’ money like an A-list celeb” for taking planes around England.

The prime minister’s environmental credentials were also questioned as he took flights from London to Blackpool and onwards to Darlington in January.

Liberal Democrat climate change and transport spokeswoman Wera Hobhouse said: “Being the prime minister 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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