It may have come as a surprise to some people when David Cameron revealed that he hasn’t driven a car in four and a half years. He is not allowed to drive for security reasons.
The declaration of war in 1939 was the event that changed ministers’ travel habits. Before this, only the home secretary was allocated a police car. As for other ministers, they had to provide their own or take public transport. As the country went to war, it was decided that six 20-horsepower Austin chauffer-driven cars should be permanently at the disposal of the War Cabinet.
The official government car service then came into being in 1946. Today, the car used by prime ministers is a rather James Bond-like Jaguar. The leader of the opposition is the only MP entitled to an official chauffer-driven government car who isn’t a minister. All former prime ministers are entitled to one as is the prime minister’s spouse, since the days of Cherie Blair. Samantha Cameron, it was reported, requested a female driver instead, as she was more comfortable with a woman taking her children to school.