Trendy “green” Japanese cars should be axed from the Government fleet in favour of award-winning British vehicles such as Jaguars, MPs have insisted.
They slammed ministers for choosing “hybrid” vehicles such as the Toyota Prius as their official car, instead of environmentally-friendly Jaguars in Birmingham.
Erdington MP Sion Simon (Lab) is leading the campaign, which has gained cross-party support.
It follows Jaguar’s success in winning a prestigious award for the second year in a row.
The Jaguar’s XJ 2.7 diesel, built in Castle Bromwich, Birmingham, has won the title of Britain’s greenest luxury car in the 2008 Car Buyers’ Guide from the Environmental Transport Association.
It topped a range of 1300 models after each car was examined for its power, CO2 emissions and fuel efficiency. But ministers have increasingly been ditching British vehicles for hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid, These have two engines – a conventional combustion engine and a battery powered motor which is charged as the vehicle is running - and produce fewer carbon emissions, which are believed to contribute to global warming.
But critics claim that the “green” image enjoyed by hybrid vehicles has little connection to reality.
The supposed environmental benefits don’t take into account the need to import the vehicles from overseas and, crucially, the complicated construction process, which requires nickel to be mined for use in the battery.
Despite this, more than half the cars in the Government’s ministerial fleet are hybrid vehicles from Japan. The 84 cars used by ministers include 40 Toyota Prius and 13 Honda Civic Hybrids. There are also nine Jaguar XJs, one Jaguar X type, four diesel-powered Mondeos, six petrol-powered Mondeos, six Vauxhall Vectras and five Rover 75s, although the Rovers are set to be replaced by hybrid vehicles.
The policy of shunning British manufacturers led to a full-scale Cabinet row earlier this year, when Business Secretary John Hutton demanded a U-turn, according to reports. Following Jaguar’s award, Mr Simon urged ministers to buy British in a House of Commons motion praising Jaguar for its commitment to the environment.
He has been backed by MPs including Richard Burden (Lab Northfield), Jim Cunningham (Lab Coventry South), John Spellar (Lab Warley), Peter Bottomley (Con Worthing West) and Lynne Jones (Lab Selly Oak).
Gordon Brown’s Parliamentary Secretary Ian Austin (Lab Dudley North), who acts as his eyes and ears in the House of Commons, also urged Ministers to back British manufacturers.
Mr Simon said: “British ministers should be driving British cars.I’m not saying it has to be a Jaguar, although obviously I’d like it to be, but there is no other country in the world which makes cars where you will see government ministers in foreign vehicles.
"The Prius is shipped half way around the world. It has two engines, produced in an environmentally-costly manufacturing process.
“Meanwhile, here in Erdington we are manufacturing an award-warning, prestige green vehicle.”
Mr Austin added: “We could be using Birmingham-built cars with the cleanest diesel engines in the world.”
Their comments follow warnings from Trade Minister Digby Jones that the Government risked driving manufacturers such as Jaguar out of the country if it failed to support them, in an interview with The Birmingham Post in March.
A spokesman for Jaguar and Land Rover said last night: “The recognition the XJ has received from the Environmental Transport Association. underlines our commitment to developing new technologies for the future in terms of state-of-the-art diesel technology.”