HC Deb 15 July 1952 vol 503 cc1974-6
45. Mr. Profumo

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement about the Government car service.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Winston Churchill)

Substantial savings have been made as a result of instructions I gave on taking office to reduce the use of chauffeur-driven cars in London by Ministers and officials. Out of 712 such cars in the Government car service and other Departmental car pools in London and the provinces last October, 61 had been put down before the end of March. On 1st April my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works began to gather into one pool all chauffeur-driven cars except those used by the Post Office and the Foreign Office. This process, and the economies which will result from it, are not yet complete, but a further 75 civilian cars have been given up and the Headquarters of the Service Departments in London have returned 41 Service cars to their units. The annual saving to the taxpayer from these measures is over £100,000.

Mr. Profumo

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his reply makes complete nonsense of the ludicrous contention of the late Government that the provision of a private car and chauffeur for every Minister at the taxpayers' expense was an essential part of Government service?

Mr. Stokes

Will the Prime Minister say whether any allowance is made for a Minister who uses his own car whilst on duty, and, if so, what? Any monetary allowance?

The Prime Minister

I gave a great deal of attention to this matter, but I really do not understand the point.

Mr. Stokes

May I make it clear to the Prime Minister? If Ministers, having lost their cars—their official cars—use their own private cars in carrying out their duties, is any monetary allowance made to them for that?

The Prime Minister

I do not think so. It never occurred to me that such a thing—[Interruption.] It never occurred to me that such a practice would develop, but I will certainly inquire into it. I do not think it is so.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

May I ask the Prime Minister, first, whether he could give details in the OFFICIAL REPORT of this saving of £100,000; second, whether account is taken of allowances which would be paid to civil servants who use other forms of transport if there is no car available; and third, whether he is aware and does not agree that this saving does not really give any criterion of the real saving effected—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—because it probably follows that hundreds if not thousands of civil servants waste their precious time travelling by other means which take them far longer so that their valuable time and the Government's is wasted to a considerable degree?

The Prime Minister

We have made a very considerable effort in this matter—admittedly, in a small scale—and it has caused a lot of inconvenience to those who have been directly affected by it. They have been glad to subject themselves to that inconvenience in order to enforce an attempt to curtail the rank, exuberant and wasteful expenditure that obtained under the previous Administration.

Mr. Wigg

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Prime Minister's reply, and in view of the fact that a special train was used by him at public expense during the General Election in 1945, I give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.