Ed Vaizey and Iain Dale have argued that the perk of the ministerial car and driver is just one example of a luxury we should no longer be awarding ministers. It’s a relatively low cost saving, but could of course be aggregated with a great many others. Tom Harris defends the limo here, saying that hair-shirting MPs is a silly idea, that having a car and driver is a very welcome thing after a late night at the House of Commons, and that all this is getting out of hand:
Yes, a ministerial car is a perk. So let’s hear it for perks! Because if you’ve just had a 12- or a 14- hour day and you’re leaving the Commons after the last vote, it’s wonderful to be able to slide into the seat of a car and relax while you’re taken home, knowing you’ll be lucky to get six hours sleep before your ministerial diary kicks in the next morning. I don’t grudge that privilege to any serving minister and I wouldn’t begrudge any future Tory minister, either.
Well, a couple of points are probably in order here. Fine, let’s hear it for perks. Having a car to drive you home after work or work functions is a pretty regular benefit that executives in private companies get. It is, of course, taxable as a benefit in kind. Astonishingly (I bet you can see where this is going) the ministerial limo is not taxable. 14 hour days are not the preserve of MPs – the rest of us have to manage ourselves.
A thought does occur, however. After a long day in the office, if you can’t face public transport and haven’t got your own car, there’s this wonderful service where, for a small fee, a car and a driver will appear and drive you all the way home. Taxis I think they’re called…