Boris Johnson: Newly painted RAF Voyager takes off from airfield
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The Government could spend as much as £62million on its so-called “Brexit jet” to whisk ministers around in the coming years. According to newly-released transparency documents, the new extension is worth £22.5million.
This is on top of the £75million already tendered to have the plane at the Government’s disposal, which it has had since January last year.
The Government signed a two-year lease on an Airbus A321 with tail number G-GBNI, with the option of three annual extensions.
The Cabinet Office has not confirmed how much of that initial amount has been spent so far, but the annual figure suggests the extension could cost nearly £100million.
The decision to lease the plane – a second for ministers – was criticised as members of the Government and the royal family are able to use an RAF Voyager to travel.
The decision was made to have the plane for promotional purposes under the previous Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, as a way to sell the UK around the world after leaving the EU.
In April this year, Jacob Rees-Mogg, then-Cabinet Secretary, told Parliament that the current plane had replaced another Airbus being rented at no extra cost to the taxpayer.
Documents published by the Government show that the contract was extended earlier in the year, and it is anticipated to last until at least the end of 2025.
The new funds were signed off at a time when it was calling for fiscal restraint when it came to public spending.
In March, Mr Rees-Mogg urged departments to cut costs, saying “taxpayers have the right to expect every penny of their money to be justified before it’s spent”.
However, ministers have previously stated their preference for the private jets is due to the travel requirements they have.
At the weekend, the Guardian reported that in her last six months as Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss managed to cost £1.8million in travel bills, around a quarter of which is said to have come from a trip to Australia using the RAF plane.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, has previously accused ministers of wasting money on “vanity and comfort” at a time when the cost of living is soaring.
Documents provided by the Government have redacted elements around payments to Corporate Travel Management (North) Ltd, a Bradford-based VIP travel company, citing commercial interests.
A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office told Civil Service World that the £62million figure represents the maximum amount that could be spent.
As such, the cost to the taxpayer could be lower if operational costs do not exceed expectations.
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