Simon Burns, minister responsible for train fares, uses £80,000-a-year chauffeur-driven government car to 'avoid overcrowded trains'

News is likely to provoke more anger from commuters still reeling from the New Year inflation-busting rise in train fares last week.

Rob Williams
Sunday 06 January 2013 11:51
Comments
The minister responsible for rail fares, Simon Burns, is under fire today after it emerged that he commutes to work using a chauffeur-driven government car.
The minister responsible for rail fares, Simon Burns, is under fire today after it emerged that he commutes to work using a chauffeur-driven government car.

The minister responsible for rail fares, Simon Burns, is under fire today after it emerged that he commutes to work using a chauffeur-driven government car.

Burns, the Conservative MP for Chelmsford, travels the 35 miles between his home in Essex and Westminster using an £80,000-a-year departmental car service.

The news is likely to provoke more anger from commuters still reeling from the New Year inflation-busting rise in train fares last week.

The Department for Transport has defended Mr Burns' use of a government car, saying it is permitted under the Ministerial Code.

According to a report in the Mail on Sunday Mr Burns uses a car to travel to work in order to avoid overcrowded trains.

A spokesman for passengers' campaign group Railfuture told the newspaper: "It would be nice if the person who is setting these fare rises was also experiencing some of the congestion and overcrowding endured by ordinary, hard-pressed travellers."

Mr Burns reportedly defended his regular use of the Department for Transport pool car by saying: "I have given up my second home in London and I commute to and from work carrying classified papers which I work on during my journey."

Cabinet officials confirmed last night that there were no restrictions on ministers taking the "red boxes" that contain their government papers on public transport.

Transport minister Stephen Hammond revealed details about the department's travel arrangements in parliamentary documents.

He said: "With the introduction of a departmental pool car service on 1 April 2012, individual ministers are no longer allocated government cars. The Secretary of State (Patrick McLoughlin) and Minister of State use the pool cars on a daily basis.

"I use the pool cars occasionally and also use the top-up service as business requires it.

"The Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Norman Baker, used the car on an extremely occasional basis for journeys of less than three miles, the last date being 20 November 2012."

Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who uncovered the arrangement through a parliamentary question, told the Mail on Sunday: "This looks to be an extremely poor use of taxpayers' money, and a very bad example for a minister to set."

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said non-classified documents could be taken on public transport.

She added: "The Ministerial Code provides for ministers to use a government car for home-to-office travel when working on classified papers."

A DfT spokesman said: "The Minister of State does not have a home in London but uses his commute to work on official papers and so travels in a car provided by the Government Car Service for security reasons.

"The Ministerial Code permits ministers to use official cars for home-to-office journeys within a reasonable distance of London when they are working on classified papers."

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in