MICHAEL Gove, Alister Jack and other UK ministers have been accused of using RAF flights as a “private taxi service,” following a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee in Cardiff this week.

The Cabinet Office Minister and Scottish Secretary were in the Welsh capital on Tuesday to attend the JMC to discuss Brexit matters.

But, rather than taking the train, with a return trip costing around £50 per person, they decided to use an RAF plane to and from RAF Northholt near Oxford, believed to have cost at least £3,000.

One claim, that Mr Jack used the flight to make a Dover House whisky reception in Whitehall, was forcefully dismissed by the Government as “categorically untrue”. The Scottish Secretary did not attend the Scotch Whisky Association reception.

The UK Government initially insisted that using the RAF flights was the “most efficient and cost-effective manner” but in a later response dropped the word “most”.

There were six ministers on the flight. As well as Mr Gove and Mr Jack, these were: Julian Smith, the Northern Ireland Secretary; Simon Hart, the Welsh Secretary; Chloe Smith, the Minister for the Constitution in the Cabinet Office, and Lord Callanan, the Brexit Minister. They were accompanied by several officials and aides, meaning there were between 15 and 20 people on the RAF flights.

The Herald was told that ministers have sometimes used flights to attend JMC and British-Irish Council meetings in the past and given there were so many, plus officials and aides, it was deemed that using the RAF was the best option. Tuesday was the first time Mr Jack had used an RAF flight.

However, Tommy Mr Sheppard, the SNP’s Shadow Commons Leader, said: “There are two things. Why did they do it in this instance and what is the protocol for this?”

He told The Herald: “We can’t have ministers running around using the RAF as a private taxi service. It is there for the defence of the realm, not to provide travel for ministers to attend parties or any other purpose.”

The Edinburgh East MP said there would be reasons for ministers to take flights “in extremis” but stressed he could not see in this instance why using RAF flights was the only means of travel.

“We need to get to the bottom of this. This is completely unacceptable, verging on the abuse of power. It’s typical of the arrogance of those in power,” added Mr Sheppard, who said he would be tabling parliamentary questions to find out the reasons for ministers using RAF flights to travel to and from the Cardiff JMC.

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “Six UK Government ministers and their support staff travelled to Cardiff to attend an important inter-governmental meeting on Brexit as well as undertaking other official engagements.

“They travelled in an efficient and cost-effective manner. It is categorically untrue to suggest the flight was used to attend a whisky reception.”