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What's wrong with public transport?

When they can answer that and say "nothing", then they'll only be telling the truth if they're using it.

Incidentally, one thing about Ken Livingstone ( PAH ), is he ALWAYS used / uses public transport.

Well said Ed Vaizey.

Given most MPs have London flats paid for by taxpayers they can cycle to work.

It's good enough for Boris and DC.

There can be a small pool of ministerial cars for special occasions.

erm...hang on.

I think we're in danger of getting a bit silly here.

Not the cars - I've never had a 'car and driver' so can't really comment on the utility.

But 'second class rail travel' for ministers?

Let's not get too carried away with the hair shirt nonsense. I travel by train once or twice a week for work - to meetings and the like - and when I first started I offered to use second class travel. My boss insisted - no, first class, because as he put it "I want you to be productive on the journey".

I regularly work on the train, travelling first class makes it reliably possible.

While you can sometimes work in second class, if you're lucky enough to have a table, and it doesn't ave three other people all with thngs on the table, it isn't reliable. I need a laptop and usually a file or two.

So let's not get silly to the point of stupidity. I want ministers to use their travel time productively, and that is not really possible if we expect them to travel second class.

And before everyone jumps up to say 'what about all those people who HAVE to travel second class'...well, that isn't really an argument. Most companies allow their senior people to travel first class precisely so they can work.

There may be an argument for ministerial cars for the same reason (canwork in the back rather than drive) but I'm not so sure. anyone?

I agree that ministers should have the use of official cars; pity the PM is happy to use a Range Rover for the trip from Downing St. to the House, but decided to put a swingeing tax on these vehicles for the rest of us.

Getting those minor officials to give up perks like these will not be easy. So far no sign of "sharing the pain" of the recession from any of our politicians. I`m alright Jack!


I've just reread your post, and spluttered.

Ken Livingstone?? Always used public transport??

Do you not remember the fury over his phenomenal £260 taxi bill back to London from the Labour Party Conference?

Livingstone was never a man to be stingy with taxpayers money!


Well done, Ed! I am fully in favour of this. Ministerial cars are a status symbol that we can ill afford.

All those ministers travelling by public transport (and senior civil servants, I trust) and we might find it improving in no time at all.

I am afraid that doing away with ministerial cars would be counter productive. The facts of ministerial life are such that having a car is essential for doing the job. 1. A great deal of work is done in the back of the car. Most nights I had three boxes to transport and the journey from Westminster to my home in Forest Hill in South East London at any time between 10 pm and 3-4 am was used for reading. No public transport and finding a cab willing to go out into the suburbs was almost impossible, in addition being able to make confirdential phone calls would become impossible. 2. Early starts to catch the 7 or 8 am train to Cardiff from Paddington would again be impracticable without the car. The 2hr train journey again would be used for working and reading papers and often discussing matters with the private secretary.
3. Attending functions where having the car immediately available to get back for votes in the Commons was vital.

4. Ministerial diaries are very busy expecting the minister to make their own travel arrangements and hang about on street corners looking for a cab is impracticable and not a good use of their time.

5. Travelling in mid Wales to functions could not be done by public transport again having the opportunity to work confidentially with a government driver rather than a mini cab draiver was essential. Very few mini cab drivers have signed the Official Secrets Act.

6. The rules for using an official car are reasonable. You could not use them for Party functions, constituency or private business. You could stop at the shops to and from a government function, be picked up from your constituency home to go to and from a government function.

Nick you make some very fair points! Thank you for your very full clarification from the viewpoint of a former Minister.

Quite often during the Labour government, and I bet it happened occasionally during the Tory government too, a new minister will come in and say "I don't think I should be having the ministerial car. I can get by perfectly OK with public transport and I never needed a car in London before."

Then their civil servants will say this: "Yes, Minister, if you wish then we can get rid of your car. However, the documents you carry in your red box every night are secret. It is vital that they are kept secure and we send a car to carry them to make sure they are not out of the sight of the driver until they get to your home. You may choose to travel on public transport but your red box is only going in a government car. So you won't end up saving the taxpayer any money or reducing the number of car journeys."

At which the Minister gives up and decides that they may as well sit next to the red box on its journeys into work.

I agree with Nicholas Bennett on this for the reasons he states so very well. This man has had relevant experience and ought to be heeded.

This is tokenism and the amount to be saved is mere Petty Cash in the Governmental and Global scheme of things.

If economies are required there are far bigger fish to fry.

It's worrying quite how much this government is resembling Yes, Minister. (Episode 3, Series 1, for those who've forgotten.)

James D

I was thinking exactly the same thing!

@steve foley,

If Ed is right and the saving is even close to £100m we are not talking small sums.

No. No. No. I bow to no-one in my detestation of politicians taking the p*** with taxpayers' money but a ministerial car is an extremely useful tool.

The workload of a minister is punishing. They are doing it for us - and being paid relatively modestly for it. Why do we want to make life harder by expecting them to use the tube (no phone calls) or second class trains (no space to work)? Why on earth add stress to an already heavy burden for the sake of penny pinching? Do you seriously imagine that ministers zipping from meeting to meeting, juggling phone calls and briefing notes, are really lounging in 'chauffeur-driven limos' chucking to themselves at the decadence of it all? Dream on.

The way we treat our ministers says something about our self-respect as a nation. By all means clamp down on those who abuse the system to lead a faux-toff lifestyle at public expense but don't allow sourness and envy to impair ministerial effectiveness.

Britain is a serious country and we should be run by serious people, not eunuchs prepared to endure any petty indignity for the sake of office.

I suspect the best solution is to halve the budget and reduce the numbers of cars available as well as introduce a 'pool' system. This would act as a restraining mechanism encouraging ministers and quango heads to think about whether they really need a car every day rather than have an automatic and often unnecessary service laid on when for a good part of the time it is just not necessary.

So I see Ed's suggestion as a good one if implemented sensibly. The most useful thing about it is, as Tim says, it shows that politicians do not expect a gilt-edged service at taxpayers expense. This should be true in good times and bad. It is unfortunate that this discussion is even required - if the culture of leadership guiding the allocation of taxpayers resources had not been allowed to become so bloated and easy around spending hard-earned tax revenue we wouldn't even have to examine these areas of inflated expenditure.

Cllr. Bennett makes a good case. Problem is that all officials, deserving and undeserving will also be able to do so. "Why should my department be singled out?" Net result,no change.

Many of those receiving these and other benefits seem to be unaware aware of the financial disaster which is hitting us all, and it will get worse.

Under the circumstances I would suggest pool car would be better than dedicated car. If there is none available then use a taxi service

According to the Government Car and Dispatch Agency's Annual Report and Accounts 2007/08 the cost of the Government Car Service is £13.8 million.

I appreciate Nick Bennett's point about ministers using their cars as an extension of their office. But in Nick's time there were plenty of late night votes, when ministers perhaps could justify a trip home after an exhausting day at 2am.

Nor would my proposal mean that nothing was spent on ministerial travel. This posting arose from Chris Mullin's diary in the Mail on Sunday, where he tells in amusing style how hard he had to fight not to have a ministerial car!

Perhaps the easiest way to implement it would simply be for the default position to have no car and for a minister who wanted one to justify it.

And as I say it could not be implemented over noght - I don't want to be accused of throwing a lot of srivers out of work. And before people also accuse me of running down the British car industry, most cars are Toyota Prius's (though some are Hondas).

"This posting arose from Chris Mullin's diary in the Mail on Sunday, where he tells in amusing style how hard he had to fight not to have a ministerial car!"

There is also the very strong sense from Mullins' diary that his reluctance to have a ministerial car was perceived as somehow subversive of the whole business of entitlement to a car. If he decided that he did not need one, then it would call into question an entire class of ministers and other assorted satraps having one as well.

In addition he points up the 'job creation scheme' aspect of the ministerial motor pool, another facet of the State's facility for adding yet more people as members of the 'client state'.

Tangentially, Mullins' stuff is a first rate look at how the cogs and wheels of government work and how the world of Sir Humphrey lives on and on and on. Though I care not for his politics, his candid account of this rotten shower at work is both revelatory and confirmatory of all that we have suspected.

Oh god this sort of thing really hacks me off. A populist trying to make a cheap political point.

Having now just read through this thread I totally agree with Common Sense's comments.

£10million is a drop in the ocean of government spending. What is the problem with ministers, who have a duty to run the country, using ministerial cars? Senior executives and directors are provided with cars and drivers in the private sector. Chief executives of local authorities are afforded a similar benefit.

It is a perk of the meritocratic society we live in and provides m inisters with security too.

Lazy Vaisey should spend a little more time identifying more substantial savings than this pretty awful offering.

Build flats within walking distance.
not only will it save a fortune on expenses, but the number of cars needed will be cut as well.

I have no generic problems with Mr Vaizey's proposals, although I would be far more convinced if he had actually bothered to find out what approximately was the cost in the first place. Guesses from politicians are never good but especially not in a recession!

On this particular recommendation. The one note of caution I would raise is on security. How expendable is any Minister? Is this really such a priority or just an arbritrary attempt at finding savings?

Furthermore are there alternative measures which could provide reductions such as a common pool of cars for certain lower level Ministers on official duties?

However, I do fully agree with him where he says:

As the axe falls across the public sector it's vital that ministers and politicians take a lead in the necessary austerity.

So what else could be done?

How about restructuring the ACA to remove it's loopholes and excesses (scrapping the John Lewis List would be a good start).

Restricting the subsidies for refreshments within the Palace of Westminster

Ending the ridiculous Parliamentary self regulation of MP's salaries and benefits

Cutting the expenses provided to the Lords (20-30% would seem reasonable)

Reforming the 'Communications Allowance'

Forcing senior Cabinet members to have grace and favour homes.

Cutting the cost of MEP's expenses by proportionately reducing funding to the EU.

Ending any latent consideration of the nonsense about using taxpayers money to subsidise political parties #the literal poll tax proposed in the Philips report#.

Ending the nonsense about reducing the size of the 'pig trough' by cutting the number of elected representatives. It is unacceptable to punish the electorate by reducing it's elected democratic representation for relatively paltry cost savings. The size of the 'pig trough' should be reduced by getting rid of of the services of unelected political appointees.

Furthermore, cutting the number of 'pigs' will be insufficient. It's clear that more than anything ALL the 'pigs' need to go one a diet.

No doubt there is more that could be done.

Now that's what I call 'leading by example' in an era of austerity. Now has the Conservative party the determination and integrity to do so?

@ Ed Vaisey. 'most cars are Toyota Prius'

Not very Bodie and Doyle doing evasive driving in a hybrid conscience-mobile with the performance of a tortoise with blancmange clogs on. Stick some ballistic armour on a Prius and you may as well have a chap with a red flag walking in front. Or white flag should any would be assassins be lurking.

My proposal would be the Sedan chair.

It makes the minister look important and he could even wear a powdered wig and flouncy sleeves.

It gives two chaps a job. Or four if Prescott wanted one.

And Sedan chairs do not attempt to save the planet by costing more in production carbon than they actually save in a lifetime's use.

But Englandism.co.uk - they are not allowed on motorways!!


Do you really think there are single items of spending of over 10m Mr Vasey could identify and scrap. From the excellent speech he gave at the buckingham AGM I believe his entire department is "only" worth 100m so if he finds total savings of 10m in his entire department he'll be doing very well.

The "big" savings we are going to need will be found by toting up the odd million here and there and don't forget a saving from the ministerial car service would be a recurrent one. If it were cut in half to 5m say that would actually be 250 extra nurses in perpetuity.

Posted by: James | February 22, 2009 at 10:57


Thanks for that.
Obviously I fell for his Mayoral spin when I seen his video. I think he even stood up for a rather heavy lady and helped her with some shopping. No doubt it'll have been one of his cleaners.

In my defense, I did say ( PAH ). lol

'But Englandism.co.uk - they are not allowed on motorways!!'

You are right Sally, my proposal is flawed.

However. Could we not have a Euro Tunnel style arrangement where all the ministerial Sedan chairs are parked up in mobile containers and moved by truck whenever a herd of ministers feel the need to visit beyond the M25?

Well said Ed Vaizey.

My ex father-in-law was a Government pool car driver up until the early 90s. His minister represented a seat in the South West. Some of the 'jobs' he was given by his minister were incredible- 'could you pop home and feed the cat, old boy' etc

Abolishing this luxury would be a small but totemic step in the right direction, given the circumstances the rest of us are facing.

Oyster cards and second class train tickets ED. How much would you say these things cost? 5k? 7k? well that's what your travel expenses were for the last two audits on 'they work for you'

"However. Could we not have a Euro Tunnel style arrangement where all the ministerial Sedan chairs are parked up in mobile containers and moved by truck whenever a herd of ministers feel the need to visit beyond the M25?"

I am sure something could be arranged, Englandism! I shall contact all my Little Euro Friends and see what can be done!

Well, if Ed really does think we should get rid of government cars we could start with our own leader - David Cameron has a government car which he could give up voluntarily. I don't think this will happen, any more, frankly, than ministers giving up their cars in the next Conservative government.

We don't need a car pool. The whole exercise could be outsourced to one or more "Ezecutive" car services, and it would probably average out at 15 or so cars on duty at any time, but with flexibility for more as required.

Cllr Nicholas Bennett, as a former minister makes the case very well. I hope our front bench are taking advantage of the knowledge of those who have gone before them.

Ed Vaizey is a fine media performer but cheap stunts aren't what we need. Although I do look forward to the day that Ed leaves his new department with three red boxes strapped to the back of his bike while taking calls on his hands free phone!

I have never thought of Ed Vaizey as a Jacobin before now.

Gesture politics. We'll see whether he cuts it once in office.


Indeed! Of course, Livingstone pent even more on spin and self promotion than he did on taxis!!


Englandism.co.uk @ 15.12 said:

"Could we not have a Euro Tunnel style arrangement where all the ministerial Sedan chairs are parked up in mobile containers and moved by truck whenever a herd of ministers feel the need to visit beyond the M25?"

Actually - I think you'll find the collective term for a group of Ministers is a 'confusion.'

And the collective term for a group of senior civil servants is a 'Conspiracy.'


It's not just a matter of the minister's own personal security, there is the matter of the papers they are working on as well, even if the minister wants to keep them with them and travel on trains, buses etc... special provisions have to be made to protect official documents, when disaster occurred as it inevitably would at some point as large numbers of official documents were mislaid or seized by gangsters or terrorists the government's support would plummet.

Just as the CofE had far fewer bishops when just about everyone in the land attended Church on Sundays so did we have far smaller government when we ruled a quarter of the globe.

I believe that a Minister of the Crown merits a car. The real problem is not a surfeit of cars but far too many ministers!

When I go out canvassing in my constituency, people aren't talking about ministerial cars. They're talking about crime, Europe and immigration. Perhaps Vaizey might be better served concentrating on those.

Peter: There'd be more money for police officers etc if we cut back on ministerial and MPs' perks.

Yet Another Anon:
Aaaah, that's why so many laptops and discs and papers were mislaid last year, they were all bucking for official cars. Devious, those politicians eh?
Let us help our politicians, and get some cheap European brownie points: Trabants all round I say!!! Catalytic exhausts or whatever to be made in England and fitted by short-time motor-industry workers.

Funnily enough you can pull all the numbers you need out of the Annual Report of the Government Car and Despatch Agency, here. Government mail and car services are handily structured as a Department of Transport Executive Agency and they publish separate figures.

In 2007/8 they had 171 cars and 168 drivers and they cost £14.0 million to run. That is about £82K per car but I guess they don't have all the cars and the drivers on the road at the same time so they probably have nearer to 150 cars out there operating and the effective cost per car is slightly higher than £82K but probably not quite as much as £100K. They bought £1.0 million worth of new cars and employed five managers who earnt over £50K in 2007/8. All employees are on civil service pensions. Nice work if you can get it.

It sounds like you could keep 50 odd cars for the real big knobs, lose 120 or so and save £10 million. They also have large premises at 46 Ponton Road in Vauxhall which would probably make a nice capital receipt thank you.

You wouldn't save £10m Phil. You've forgotten to add on the new expenditure needed on the taxis/trains/whatever that the people who used to have use of the car pool now spend on getting about.

Perhaps ministers should emulate President Rufus T. Firefly of Freedonia. His personal transport didn’t cost the taxpayers of a lot.

I am afraid its complete nonsense. Next we will be having him suggest the Queen turns up to the state opening in a mini.
Its all just playground politics. Trying to look like your on the side of the people against the establishment when really the present leadership are more part of the establishment than the government itself.

Is this the best that Eton can deliver, "why do ministers need cars". FFS vote labour

Robin Clash: FYI Ed Vaizey was educated at St Paul's, not Eton.

I can see both sides of this but the idea that a junior Minister is a senior person, akin to someone in the private sector likely to have their own driver is laughable. Some junior Ministers are barely allowed to see a secret paper in the office, let alone take it home in their red box.


Blimey! An abusive comment at 6.56 in the morning! Did you get out of bed on the wrong side of bed this morning Robin?
I take it your urging us all to vote Labour was a joke?

Bear in mind that the Govt Car & Dispatch Agency also delivers the secure post between government departments, moves equipment around (e.g. when they have an away day) and so forth.

Government cars are essential for the reasons others have given above. Just as an amusing side point, remember that story about Nick Clegg being overheard on the 'plane discussing his shadow cabinet? Wouldn't happen in a government car.

They can be essential for work and getting through the day. I used to know a senior govt official (below Perm Sec level though) who used to travel in to work by tube. She then got a new, more intensive job, and negotiated access to a government car. Afterwards she said she worked in it on the way to work and on the way back and it was the only way she could get through the work. It added an extra couple of hours on to her working day but still meant she got a chance of getting some sleep.

"But 'second class rail travel' for ministers?"

I can understand the thinking after all why should the tax payer stump up for luxury. However our 3rd class rail system is far to crowded and useless at peak times. I think we probably should stick to resonable standards of comfort for out "top" people, we don't want to look like a third world nation even if technically we are.

What's the point of having cars and chauffeurs sitting around all day waiting to transport someone less than 5 miles? Of Course the Senior cabinet members, mentioned by Ed Vazey, should have them for security

I don't advocate that we should require Ministers to travel 2nd class. But what's wrong with holding accounts with private radio taxi companies and booking cabs whenever they need them. Account holders always get priority, and our London Taxis are extremely discreet and safe.

The accounts would have to be closely monitored so that these cabs don't end up charging the taxpayer for long waiting times etc... But they are still more cost effective than a car and chauffeur.

The car and chauffeur costs include: Car Cost, Fuel, Road Tax, Parking, Congestion Charge, Insurance, Repairs, Parking and speeding fines, Chauffeur's salary and overtime, Pension and Employer's NI for the Chauffeur.

The first comment made about Ken using public transport is utter rubbish. Beside the trip to party conference in Manchester, "King Newt" had accounts with Both Addison Lee and Computer Cab which ran into thousands of pounds. These cabs were used to ferry himself and his minions to and from parties where they lived the high life at our expense.

For the record, Boris uses Peddle Power whenever possible.

It looks like the taxpayer is about to become the owner of loads of unsellable vans. Cutesy of Mandleson and his sailing chum Oleg.

Can't they be put to use...

What's wrong with having staff drive themselves where ever possible? A new Toyota Prius costs 20 grand and even if you change them every 2 years thats 10 grand a year. Add another 10 grand for (very very) generous running costs and you've cut the budget by 80% at a stroke.

Travelling in run-of-the-mill cars with no chauffeur would proberbly make junior ministers more secure not less.

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