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SNP calls for Johnson to explain why private jet allowed to leave UK for Russia despite flight ban

Sky News logo Sky News 18/05/2022 James Matthews, Scotland correspondent

The prime minister has been asked to explain why a private jet was allowed to leave the UK for Russia after a flight ban had been imposed.

Inverness Airport. File pic: Alamy © Other Inverness Airport. File pic: Alamy

Boris Johnson was quizzed during Prime Minister's Questions about a private chartered flight from Inverness Airport to Moscow, which took place a day after the Russian flight ban came into force.

SNP MP Richard Thomson said in the Commons: "Air traffic control transcripts published this week have revealed that despite being informed of the intended flight, no attempt was made by the UK government, or its agencies, to prevent the plane from taking off.

Boris Johnson pictured during PMQs. Image: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor © PA Boris Johnson pictured during PMQs. Image: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

"Will the prime minister commit to informing the House at the earliest opportunity: who was travelling on that flight; why, despite being informed in advance of the flight, was no attempt made by the UK government to keep the plane on the ground; and what will the prime minister personally do to try and prevent any similar breaches of sanctions from happening in the future?"

(L-R) Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Mr Johnson pictured together on Tuesday © PA (L-R) Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Mr Johnson pictured together on Tuesday

The Learjet 60, operated by the company Panaviatic, flew from Inverness on 26 February to Moscow's Vnukovo Airport.


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Exactly who was on board the flight remains a mystery.

Questions to the prime minister follow a letter from SNP MPs to the UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps demanding an explanation into who authorised the flight, despite a Notice of Air Missions (NOTAM) aimed at preventing flights of its kind.

Drew Hendry, the SNP MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, highlighted reports in the Press and Journal newspaper of a memo confirming UK government approval of the flight and the apparent conflict with the transport secretary accusing Inverness Airport of "failing to comply" with the NOTAM regulations.

Mr Hendry said: "The UK transport secretary must first apologise for scapegoating Inverness Airport and set the record straight that it was his department that authorised the flight.

"He must then answer the pressing questions over why this flight was allowed to take off and who and what was on it.

"These are important questions following a raft of reports showing how much Russian money is swilling about Tory coffers."

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Highland and Islands Airports Ltd, the operator of Inverness Airport, said it had acted in accordance with the regulations.

It said: "We carried out the instructions received from the authorities at the time, to the letter. Our actions were correct and appropriate, and this has been borne out by an examination of the record."

The Department of Transport has been contacted for comment.

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