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Government: Ministerial Cars

Volume 721: debated on Tuesday 5 October 2010

Question

Asked By

My Lords, Ministers are permitted to use an official car for official business and for reasonable home-to-office journeys on the understanding that they would normally be carrying classified papers on which they would be working or, exceptionally, when the security authorities consider it essential. The number of Ministers with allocated cars and drivers will be kept to a minimum.

Will the Minister confirm that, notwithstanding his Answer, there have been instances of Ministers having to go home on the Tube with their boxes following them in a ministerial car?

My Lords, from time to time that can happen. It is a very good point, but sometimes a Minister may be attending other meetings or events when he does not want to carry classified material, which is taken straight from his department to his home.

What do the Government anticipate will be the savings over a couple of years, say, of the lesser use of ministerial cars?

My Lords, in 2009-10, expenditure was £11.2 million; in 2010-11, it will be reduced to £7.6 million and in 2011-12 it will be down to £5.6 million. We hope to keep it at about that level.

My Lords, are retired Prime Ministers still issued with a government car and chauffeur and under what circumstances may they use them?

My Lords, this is a Question about ministerial cars. I would rather not be drawn into the issue of the Prime Minister’s or the Deputy Prime Minister’s car.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that his colleague who went to the Dunkirk celebrations this year took a car all the way from London to Dunkirk instead of taking the Eurostar and hiring a local car at Calais to get to Dunkirk? I believe that the cost was several thousand pounds. Why could he not take the train half way, to Calais, and then take a car?

My Lords, if the noble Lord thinks that the Ministerial Code has not been completely complied with, he should write a letter to the Cabinet Secretary. On the question about certain former Ministers, on security grounds they may have the use of an allocated car and driver.

With the leave of the House, let me say that I do not think that the Minister heard my question properly. I did not ask about existing Prime Ministers and Deputy Prime Ministers; I asked about retired Prime Ministers. Would he answer my original question?

My Lords, the answer remains the same. On security grounds, former Prime Ministers and Ministers may continue to have the use of an allocated car and driver.

My Lords, is the reduction in the use of ministerial cars a reflection of the priorities of the Government in cutting public expenditure or is it a reflection of the fact that more than half the Cabinet are wealthy enough to be able to afford their own cars and drivers?

My Lords, whether the Cabinet is wealthy or not is immaterial. The objective is to reduce the government deficit and we will do that any way we can, including by reducing expenditure on the Government’s car fleet.

The Minister is keen on reducing the deficit. Are any arrangements being made for Ministers to share cars or, indeed, to use the mayor’s bicycle scheme?

My Lords, we could use the mayor’s bicycle scheme if we wanted to. I regularly walk to my department. It takes me precisely 10 minutes to get from my desk to the Secretary of State’s desk.

My Lords, will the Minister write to me if he cannot answer my question now? How many cars in government use are fuelled by liquid petroleum gas and what is the saving in using this alternative fuel?

My Lords, I am not aware of any cars using liquid petroleum gas. However, many of them now use diesel fuel. For instance, some of the Jaguar cars will do 26.5 miles to the gallon and the Toyota Prius Mark III will achieve 72.4 miles per gallon. So far as I am aware, though, we are not using LPG as a fuel.

Will the Minister assure the House that the Government will balance driving down costs with ensuring the efficiency of government business?