HC Deb 13 July 1999 vol 335 cc115-7W
Mr. Brake

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many kilometres have been travelled on his Department's business in each of the last three years broken down by(a) foot, (b) bike, (c) bus, (d) train, (e) tram, (f) light-rail(g) plane,(h) motorbike, (i) car, (j) taxi, (k) river-taxi and (l) other modes of transport; what plans and targets his Department has to reduce the kilometres travelled by private transport by his Department's employees; and if he will make a statement. [91031]

Mr. Straw

Distance travelled on official business is recorded only when an allowance is paid per mile or kilometre travelled. I can, therefore, only supply the information requested for travel by bike, motorbike and car. That information is currently being collected from around the Department. I will write to the hon. Member when the information is available and place a copy of the letter in the Library.

My Department's headquarters buildings had green transport plans in place by the end of March 1999.

A seminar was held on 29 April for green transport co-ordinators for the other 26 Departmental sites that will be required to produce green transport plans by March 2000.

No targets have been set centrally for transport (other than the Government-wide one of producing a plan). Trying to set targets that will be meaningful for both our Central London accommodation and the training colleges that are situated in isolated locations will be difficult. My Department is therefore encouraging sites to set their own targets in their plans. I will monitor and review the success of this approach.

In an effort to limit the effect on the environment, the Home Office joined the "London First" clean air charter in 1997, and has been active in setting targets for and monitoring fuel consumption for the fleet.

The Home Office has drafted an Environmental Transport Policy, which is currently in the consultation process. The policy aims to help reduce the Department's impact on the environment by addressing the issues of fleet size and composition, fuel type, fuel monitoring, vehicle maintenance, and driver training.

The Home Office seeks to ensure that each vehicle in the fleet is not only required, but fully used. The reduction of one vehicle in the fleet has a significantly higher impact than improving the fuel consumption of several vehicles.

The Home Office is planning to carry out a combined Green and Efficiency review of the entire fleet. That review will make recommendations, for fleet composition, usage rates and fuel consumption for each fleet centre. We expect to complete the first review within eighteen months using current resources.

The Home Office is committed to reducing the impact that its business travel has on the environment. Before undertaking any business travel, staff and their line managers consider whether the visit/attendance at a meeting is really necessary, whether the objectives of the meeting could be met through correspondence, e-mail, fax or telephone and whether video-conferencing facilities could be used. If it is considered necessary, staff must use public transport unless there are operational grounds for using private vehicles/hire cars e.g. carrying heavy equipment, or if the route is poorly served by public transport.

There are currently two rates of mileage allowance—Standard Rate and Public Transport Rate. The Home Office operates a strict policy when considering the payment of allowances to officers who use their private vehicles for business travel, including prior authorisation from line managers when Standard Rate Mileage Allowance is claimed. This ensures that private vehicles are used only when absolutely necessary.

Whilst those areas which have higher than average business travel have been targeted since January 1999 in an effort to promote the switch to public transport, it is also proposed to pursue the option of a single rate of Standard Rate Motor Mileage Allowance. If adopted, this should encourage the use of smaller cars and further encourage the use of public transport through a reduced rate of Motor Mileage Allowance for larger engine cars. The Home Office also has allowances for the use of motorcycles and pedal cycles for official travel.

A passenger supplement of two pence per mile for the first passenger and one pence per mile for each additional passenger is also available for staff who use their private vehicle on official business as this represents a cost effective and greener alternative.

The Home Office also pays advances for Season Ticket purchase and bicycle purchase for those members of staff who require assistance with their travel costs to work. The advances are recovered through salary over a 12-month period.

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