HMRC officials took 36,636 domestic flights between April 2017 and March 2018, as figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) show
By contrast, the Home Office took 13,474 and the Department for Transport just 6,318 in the same period.
A report by The Sunday Times shows that the majority of flights were between Gatwick and Glasgow, Manchester and Belfast, and Newcastle and Belfast.
Officials logged 220 flights between London and Manchester, as well as 33 from London to Exeter. By train, both of those routes take just over two hours.
As the Sunday Times notes, the total number of domestic flights from that year equate to more than 2,100 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
However, the current figure marks a 33% reduction in domestic flight consumption since 2009/10, when HMRC officials took 54,741 flights.
HMRC has actually bettered the government’s own target on reducing emissions, outlined in the 2016-2020 Greening Government Commitments (GGCs), having aimed for a 30% reduction on the 2009/10 figures.
HMRC’s sustainability report notes that its three pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environment impact – “are central to HMRC’s strategic role in collecting taxes and duties, administering customs, tax credits and child benefit, how we engage with our customers, our people and local surroundings, and our cost savings across government.”
Nonetheless, there have been objections to the number of flights that HMRC is taking. Speaking to The Sunday Times, Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, called it “unnecessary binge-flying”.
“This is yet another blatant example of the vast gulf between government rhetoric on the climate crisis and its abject failure to act accordingly”, Lucas said.
HMRC clarified that staff can only take flights on official business, and only when it is the most cost-effective method of transport. They can only do so with prior approval from a manager.
An HMRC spokesperson said, “HMRC is a large operational department with a focus on front-line activities, which require staff to travel to face-to-face meetings with taxpayers and their representatives.
“We have reduced our carbon emissions from domestic flights by more than 40% since 2009/10 and will continue to reduce the number of flights by promoting travel alternatives, such as video conferencing technology.”