Saturday, 5 June 2010

How should ministers travel?

I note from the Financial Times this morning that George Osborne and his Treasury team have travelled to China by business class. To me this seems perfectly reasonable. I have to travel round the world in coach, unless I am fortunate enough to get the occasional upgrade to Economy Premium or Business, and there is a difference in the level of comfort.

Osborne and his team are there to represent British interests and to promote British trade with China (trade missions were rather neglected by New Labour). It seems to me that it is desirable that they arrive in as fresh a condition as possible and should also be able to work on the plane.

David Cameron has adopted a rather hairshirt attitude to facilities for ministers on the 'don't do as I say, do as I do' principle. On one level, that is reasonable enough. The old Government Car Service (now Goverment Cars) had become rather bloated. Incidentally, Geoff Dudley wrote an interesting history of it which I have seen in manuscript, but it never seems to have been published: Dudley

Some ministers need to travel by car for security reasons. For others walking or getting the underground might be more democratic, but it eats into the time they can spend on public business.

There is room for economies, but there can also be false economies.


Anonymous said...

Great blog - I have to agree with you here. I will have to look at Geoff Dudley's work, but I do take interest into where reasonable comfort to work and stay fresh turns into luxurious expense.
But would you say that MPs should determine whether to go speedy or economy solely on cost versus working time lost, or would you take into account, for example, public image, privacy etc.?
If you're interested, I write a blog on PMQs.

Wyn Grant said...

I would be interested to have a link to your blog on PMQs. There is a fine balance in all these matters, but directors of major companies have chauffeured cars and travel business class. I think working time is the main consideration here, but privacy could be a factor.

Anonymous said...

Certainly with the expenses scandal many have started over criticising MPs - claiming that they shouldn't have been allowed to claim for repairs/necessities in their second home whereas the rule is really about luxuries. Similarly people often forget that as skilled workers and people with massive responsibilities, they should have access to useful facilities in their work.
My blog is at

Wyn Grant said...

Thanks for the link. It's always interesting to think what the comparator for the pay of MPs should be: they are certainly well below the going rate for senior professional and managerial jobs.