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Cameron to tell ministers to get on their bikes if elected

Tories promise to slash ministerial car budget and get cabinet pedalling around Westminster

Government ministers cycling around Whitehall could become a regular sight should the Conservative Party win the forthcoming General Election, according to a report in The Mail on Sunday.

With shades of former Tory minister Norman Tebbitt, who famously told the unemployed to “get on your bike,” Conservative leader David Cameron plans to get his cabinet pedalling around Westminster following proposed cuts to the ministerial car budget should his party come to power.

According to the newspaper, Shadow Transport Minister Robert Goodwill, who has been been tasked with slashing government car service spending by £6 million in the event of a Tory win, said: “Unless they have a good reason – such as carrying lots of ministerial boxes or security – we will expect Tory Ministers to consider using bicycles to get around Westminster and Whitehall. Ministers can always put their paperwork in a backpack.”

Presumably, Mr Cameron, who used the fact he cycles around London to reinforce his green credentials when he first became party leader but was subsequently revealed to have a car following him round with his briefcase, would be expected to follow his own diktat.

Nor is that the only time that the Tory leader’s penchant for cycling has hit the headlines, whether as a victim of bike crime – his Scott hybrid bike has been stolen twice in the past couple of years – or for his failure to follow the rules of the road, with the Mirror catching him jumping red lights and cycling the wrong way up a one-way street in 2008.

Mr Goodwill, who himself uses a folding bike to get around, told the Mail on Sunday that ministers could either purchase their own bicycles, or use House of Commons pool bikes through a scheme that is currently being put in place.

The newspaper said that Mr Cameron’s decision to reduce the government’s 171-strong car fleet was motivated by the revelation in former Labour minister Chris Mullins’ autobiography published last year that one depatrtment where he worked had ten cars, each costing £846 a week.

The aggregate weekly spend in that department alone of nearly £8,500 would be enough to buy five ornamental duck islands, and prospective Tory ministers can also take comfort in the fact that Her Majesty’s Customs & Revenue allows cyclists to claim a 20p per mile tax-free allowance when using their bicycles on business.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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A V Lowe | 10 years ago

The old PUSoS (Baker) told his officials that he did not want to have a car and driver sitting at DfT offices on standby costing a healthy sum doing nothing, just to be ready to whisk him to the House for a vote. He instead had his Brompton ready to hand and was able to get from Horseferry Road to Parliament faster than the car would have managed.

The old PUSoS has removed his Brompton but I gather the space will soon be filled by the Brompton of the new PUSoS, and a growing number of MP's and Lords seem to have the London-made bikes, such that spotting an MP or Lord on a Brompton might soon become a London game - Brompton Bingo - points for a set of Tory, LibDem and Labour MP's, or Lords whizzing about Whitehall.

There is also a great opportunity to create employment opportunities for young people too - every mobile minister will need a 'cycling postillion' who is ready to take charge of the ministerial bike when they arrive at a meeting and park it, and be ready with the bike to set off afterwards. They might even be delegated to ride with the weighty box of ministerial papers and switch bikes (or get a taxi) in the event of getting a puncture..... Great start and no driving licence required.

velobetty | 10 years ago

Why not just do it now rather than using it as some kind or carrot to vote them in again. Instead of saying they'll do something why not just do it!

A V Lowe | 10 years ago

This is gently following through from Norman Baker's revelation that when he asked about arrangements to get from DfT offices to The House for a vote his civil servants told him that a car was permanently available outside and ready to take him there whenever this situation existed. He got rid of the car and had his folding bike ready to ride whenever the division bell called him to vote.

Sounds as if Mr Goodwill will continue with the practices and may be joined by Baroness Kramer who also seems happy to be seen on a bike. Given that it is not clever to ride with a load on your back, ther is clearly a market for robust luggage systems that take government papers and secure them to a bike, and I'd suggest there is also some key work and job creation for young and bright people who will not need to have a driving licence, to carry government papers around riding with the the ministerial team, and valet parking the ministerial bike when they arrive at their destination.

OldRidgeback | 14 years ago

The advantage of democracy is that it allows you to vote against the party you like least.

Alankk | 14 years ago

I want a guy like Harrison Ford to be in charge. He's no Harrison Ford..

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