14/01/2016 15:06 GMT | Updated 14/01/2017 05:12 GMT

Chauffeur-Driven Cars Carrying Ministerial Red Boxes Branded 'Shocking Waste'

Ministers have been attacked for a "shocking waste" of taxpayers' money after it emerged there has been an increase in the number of Government documents being transported by chauffeur-driven cars.

Paperwork contained in ministerial red boxes has been ferried around in official cars nearly 2,000 times despite pledges to curb the practice.

Documents were carried unaccompanied in "air-conditioned splendour" 1,910 times in the three years to 2014-15, according to a Freedom of Information request by The Huffington Post UK.

In 2011/12, 527 "despatch box movements" were recorded, which rose to 577 the following year and 826 in 2014/15, according to the website.

The Government has tried to curtail use of the historic red box system by allowing ministers to access papers on fingerprint-sensitive phones instead.

Columnist Sarah Vine, who is married to Justice Secretary Michael Gove, revealed how the boxes would arrive in the "air-conditioned splendour" of a chauffeur-driven limo.

Policing minister Mike Penning used cars on 247 occasions to transport documents in 2014/15, the highest number that year, while former communities minister Baroness Hanham recorded the highest use in a single year with 377 journeys recorded in 2011.

Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson told The Huffington Post UK: "A Government that boasts loudly and regularly about cutting waste and reducing red tape should not be presiding over a dramatic increase in the number of documents that are ferried around Whitehall in expensive chauffeur-driven cars.

"It is a shocking waste of taxpayers' money at a time when far too many people are struggling as a direct result of the policies introduced by David Cameron's Tories. It's an out of date practice from an out of touch government."

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "We are committed to ensuring that the Government Car Service provides value for money for the taxpayer.

"That is why, since 2010, running costs have fallen from £21.6 million in 2010 to £6.3 million in 2014/15 and the number of cars has been reduced from 227 to 78.

"There are occasions when the government car service is appropriate to move minister's boxes in a secure manner for official business and all usage is governed by the ministerial code."