Page last updated at 19:52 GMT, Sunday, 21 February 2010

Lib Dems criticise 20m Whitehall flight bill

The Lib Dems said government departments should use fewer flights

The Liberal Democrats have criticised government departments for spending more than £20m in a year on UK flights.

The party said the Ministry of Defence (MoD) spent the most - nearly £16m on 175,000 domestic flights last year.

Overall government departments spent more than £21.8m on more than 210,000 flights in 2008-09, it said.

Party spokesman Simon Hughes said: Government staff should "use trains and video-conferencing more so they fly around the country less".

"Civil servants are spending staggering amounts of taxpayers' cash flying around the UK," he added.

"The Civil Service Code needs to change so that environmental factors are considered when travel bookings are made."

The Lib Dem figures, based on answers to Parliamentary questions, suggest officials at the Department for Work and Pensions were the second highest spenders on domestic flights - with 25,860 flights costing £2.97m.

They also show the Department for Energy and Climate Change - which is leading the fight to reduce carbon emissions - paid out for more than 1,000 domestic flights.

A spokesman for the department told the Telegraph they had to "balance the use of teleconferences and lowest carbon travel methods with the occasional business need to be somewhere quickly".

He added: "On the rare occasions where air travel is unfortunately the only option, all of the carbon emissions are offset."

An MoD spokesperson said it was constantly seeking to cut costs by using alternatives like video and telephone conferencing, but added it was not always possible.

"All trips were absolutely necessary, with the vast majority being duty travel journeys made by military personnel," the spokesperson said.

"Reasons for these include post and mid-operational tour leave, compassionate leave, resettlement leave, individual postings and home visits when based in Northern Ireland."

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