Sunak intervened to stop scrapping of helicopter contract
Rishi Sunak intervened to reverse the scrapping of a contract that provides helicopter transport for him and other senior ministers, it has emerged.
The Ministry of Defence had been expected to end the £40 million helicopter rental contract, after confirming that it wanted to ensure “available funds are prioritised on key areas”.
The decision was taken by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace. Mr Sunak has faced criticism for his frequent use of helicopters for sometimes short-distance journeys.
But the move, first reported by the Sunday Times, was reversed when Grant Shapps replaced Mr Wallace as Defence Secretary.
Writing in an RAF in-house magazine, the leader of the squadron that crews the helicopters said that the Prime Minister had personally intervened to row back on the decision.
Tom Woods wrote in the Northolt Approach: “In Jul 23 the previous SofS for Defence, The Rt Hon Ben Wallace, announced the termination of the RotaryWing Command Support Air Transport (RW CSAT) capability which would cease operating on 30 Sep 23.
“However, in mid-September 23, the new SofS Defence, The Rt Hon Grant Shapps, reversed the decision at the request of the Prime Minister. There was frenetic activity… to rapidly ensure all the key elements required to allow A109 to continue service were in place.”
Mr Sunak’s intervention saw the Ministry of Defence contract temporarily extended, according to the squadron leader.
A Government spokesman said: “All ministerial and senior defence official travel is undertaken using efficient and cost-effective travel arrangements.
“This contract was extended primarily in order to provide travel for the command functions of the Ministry of Defence.
“As a whole, domestic flights within the United Kingdom allow ministers to visit more parts of the United Kingdom in the time available, particularly areas further away from London, and reduce the need for overnight accommodation for ministers and accompanying staff.
“Security considerations are also taken into account.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.