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Civil Servants (Car Allowances)

Volume 981: debated on Wednesday 19 March 1980

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asked the Minister for the Civil Service what estimate he makes of the total annual car allowance payments to civil servants.

Separate records of this are not kept centrally. In the circumstances, the best estimate that can be made is about £50 million. I have recently asked for a study to be made of the whole question.

Will the Minister follow the lead set by General Zia of Pakistan who has issued his entire Cabinet with bicycles? Will the Minister encourage civil servants to travel around inner urban areas by bicycle rather than by car since a great deal of public money can be saved in that way? Will the Minister set an example next week by telling his Private Office that he will be pedalling with them on a tandem?

I am reluctant to do that because the Government are not anxious to face another by-election in Southend at present. I had not thought of taking General Zia as an example for the Civil Service but I shall consult my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Hurd). I am sure that all those who can bicycle —that does not include me—will do so whenever possible so that they are fitter and thus better equipped for the tasks of the day.

When the Minister examines the position will he note that top civil servants, the permanent secretaries in Whitehall, use chauffeur-driven cars to take them to Victoria Station and to Charing Cross station when buses and taxis stop outside their offices? Could not those civil servants take a bus instead of using Government cars?

When I discusssed this matter with some of the younger members of the Civil Service it was their keen wish that all senior permanent secretaries should use bicycles, on the ground that there would be more rapid promotion for them. When my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen) spoke of a tandem I did not know that he had the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) in mind as my companion.