CABINET Minister Andrew Mitchell has insisted he won’t stop using an official car – but he does want to swap his current Japanese model for a British one.
The Birmingham MP came under fire after it emerged he was one of a number of Ministers to keep their chauffeur-driven vehicles despite an apparent pledge by the new government to scrap them.
Mr Mitchell, MP for Sutton Coldfield and Secretary of State for International Development, has the use of a Toyota Prius, made in Japan.
And he’s set to keep using an official vehicle – even though Cabinet colleagues including Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary and MP for Meriden, are getting rid of theirs.
Business Secretary Vince Cable is also scrapping his official car, and Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, has already got rid of his.
It follows a pledge last year by David Cameron to cut the number of official vehicles by a third.
And the Coalition government went further after the election, when David Laws, the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, announced: “In the future, no minister should have a dedicated car or driver other than in exceptional circumstances.
“Ministers will be expected to walk or take public transport where possible, or use a pooled car. The pooling of cars will allow big savings to be made.”
But it emerged some members of the Cabinet have clung on to their vehicles after Black Country MP Tom Watson (Lab West Bromwich East) asked a series of questions in Parliament.
An answer from the Department for International Development revealed that two junior ministers are to lose their cars, and will use vehicles from a general government pool instead.
But Mr Mitchell is to keep his personal official car. He said: “I currently have the use of a Toyota Prius, and am investigating the possibility of replacing it with a British-built car.”
The use of Japanese vehicles by the Government has been a long-running bone of contention, and Ministers who wanted to switch to British-built vehicles such as the Jaguar XJ, built in Castle Bromwich, have encountered resistance from civil servants.
Mr Watson said: “There is no reason why a hardcore of Ministers should continue to be chauffeur driven in cars – especially when the likes of Green Hero Jeremy Hunt have managed to scrap their fleet.”
He added: “If Jeremy Hunt can give up his car, why can’t Mr Mitchell?”