Ministers keep their gas-guzzling cars despite CO2 targets

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Indy Politics

Two-thirds of cabinet ministers still travel in vehicles occupying the top emissions bands, despite targets to slash the carbon pumped out by official limousines.

Ministers yesterday faced renewed criticism after figures revealed that 13 of the 20 cars used by cabinet ministers are in the second-highest car tax band, pumping out more than 185g of carbon dioxide per kilometre. One further car is in the top band, with emissions of more than 225g/km. Overall, 30 of the 85 cars in the Government's ministerial fleet are in band F, according to the Department for Transport.

Ministers aim to cut the emissions from government cars to 130g/km by the summer, but a proposal to slash emissions still further sparked a cabinet row among senior ministers this week over plans to replace British-built ministerial cars with the Japanese Toyota Prius hybrids, which have become popular in government circles.

John Hutton, the Business Secretary, Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, and Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary, are said to have criticised the move, arguing that switching away from British cars sent the wrong signal to domestic manufacturers.

Ms Kelly's plans to cut government car emissions to 120g/km were said to be backed by David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, and

Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary. Ministers requiring specially adapted vehicles for security reasons would be exempt from the emissions rule.

Japanese-built Toyota Prius hybrids dominate the fleet run by the Government car and dispatch agency. Their annual report shows they run 84 Toyotas, 33 Ford Mondeos and 19 Jaguar XJ saloons.

No 10 yesterday played down reports of a split, saying that car allocations were decided on a "case-by-case basis". The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "Over the past two years the Government Car Agency has shifted to cleaner cars; that has resulted in a 30 per cent reduction in average emissions from Government cars and we will now accelerate the process of transition to low-emissions vehicles."

Ministers also faced criticism earlier this week when the Government's Sustainable Development Commission found that government emissions from official cars had risen 1.5 per cent in the past year, warning that performance had "worsened". Eight of the 21 government departments reported "poor progress or no progress" towards meeting targets for cutting emissions from cars. Only 11 of 21 departments were on target to meet the goal.

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat transport spokesman, yesterday condemned the use of gas-guzzling limousines. He said: "The Chancellor talked about persuading people to buy more environmentally friendly cars in his Budget, but now we discover that cabinet members are being chauffeured around London in some of the most polluting cars on the market.

"This is gross hypocrisy. People all over the country are doing their bit to reduce their carbon footprint but the Government is completely failing to play its part."

He said claims that ministers needed to choose their cars to promote Britain was "the thinnest excuse I have come across. If they want to promote a modern Britain they should be promoting a low-carbon Britain."

Friends of the Earth criticised ministers for doing too little to encourage British car manufacturers to build more energy-efficient models. A spokesman said: "The Government should be looking at the ways they can encourage manufacturers to produce greener models. Our manufacturers should be producing really green cars."