Foreign Office 'not flying flag' Rifkind urged to 'buy British'

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Westminster Correspondent

British diplomats are not flying the flag abroad by driving round in cars made in Britain, according to new figures released today.

In the last five years, the Foreign Office has spent pounds 21m buying cars for its overseas missions. Since April 1990, according to parliamentary answers supplied to Alan Milburn MP by the Foreign Office minister Jeremy Hanley, 1,201 cars have been purchased. A majority, 676, were not bought in Britain but abroad.

They range from seven ambassadorial Rolls-Royces, five Mercedes and 33 Jaguars to lowly Ladas and Skodas. Topping the list are Land-Rover (291) and Rover (129). But after that the British presence falls away. Japanese cars such as Mitsubishi (37) and Yamaha (30) are popular among British diplomats and six Ladas have been acquired for posts in Moscow, Riga and Vilnius, while our man in Bratislava is driving round in a Skoda.

The Foreign Office, Mr Milburn said, "should be flying the flag for Britain's motor industry, not subsidising car producers in competitor countries". Mr Milburn, who sits on the Commons Public Accounts Committee, is writing to Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Secretary, to ask him to revise purchasing plans.