Flying first class is worse for the climate and for the taxpayer.
Therese Coffey spent over £10,000 of taxpayer’s money on first-class flights to environment summits while her civil servants flew economy or business, Left Foot Forward can reveal.
While an environment minister in 2019, Coffey flew first-class to Montreal and Tokyo for meetings on nature, the environment and energy.
Flying first class is around nine times worse for the envrionment than flying economy and about three times worse than business class. It’s also many times more expensive.
Like most departments, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) only allows its staff to fly business-class when the flight is long and the flyer has to work straight away on arrival.
However, in response to an FOI, DEFRA said that ministers are not subject to these restrictions and it was ministers who took the only two first-class flights charged to DEFRA in the 2019/2020 financial year.
On April 24 2019, the FOI reveals a minister took a £6,854 first-class flight to Montreal. On April 25, DEFRA minister Therese Coffey tweeted she was at the ‘Nature Summit’ in Montreal.
Then on the 13th of June 2019, the FOI says a minister spent £4,538 on a first-class flight to Tokyo Haneda airport. Two days later, Coffey met with a Japanese minister just outside of Tokyo for a meeting on the environment and energy.
A few months later, Coffey was promoted to her current role of Secretary of State for Work and Pensions by Boris Johnson, following Amber Rudd’s resignation over Brexit.
Her appointment was criticised by the co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts Linda Burnip who called her “the latest in a long line of nasty DWP ministers who have consistently voted to further impoverish disabled people.”
Burnip added: “She has also suggested that pensioners should be forced to pay national insurance contributions to get their pension.”
Coffey has since described food banks as a “perfect way” to meet the challenges of poverty and her department has been accused of failing to properly investigate all the cases of suicide by benefit claimants.
She was also criticised by the footballer and anti-poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford. After he asked his followers to think about parents whose water has been turned off, she tweeted: “Water cannot be disconnected though”.
Coffey was one of 72 landlord Tory MPs to vote against making rented homes “fit for human habitation”.
She also accepted hundreds of pounds of hospitality from bookmakers before voting to reduce safeguards against gambling.
Coffey did not reply to a request for comment but a DEFRA spokesperson said: “We have a clear commitment to lead the global charge to tackle a range of environmental issues.
“This can sometimes require Ministers to be on the ground to drive action and protect our environment for future generations. But we always seek to ensure value for money for the taxpayer on all travel and accommodation.”
Joe Lo is a co-editor of Left Foot Forward.
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