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At work with his red box

Charles, who became king after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, took office actively.

In the new photos served by Buckingham Palace, the new king of England is seen at work, while the famous red box belonging to his mother is located next to it. The red boxes contain paperwork from government ministers in the UK and other kingdoms.

Red Book

Ministers are being provided with thumbprint-activated smartphones to replace the traditional red box.

For over 150 years, ministers have carried the scarlet leather cases crammed with documents their civil servants need them to read, and decisions they need to sign off.

But now they are being issued with state-of-the-art iPhones, enabling them to do their work online.

The innovation is being introduced across government by Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, who has become an early adopter of the modern phones.

Use of the smart phones will not be compulsory, but Mr Maude said many ministers will prefer to carry an iPhone in their pocket rather than ‘lugging’ their red box around.

The red box is most commonly seen on Budget Day, when the Chancellor holds it aloft on the stairs of No 11 Downing Street.

They came under attack four years ago when it was revealed that although incoming Coalition ministers were being encouraged to take public transport, their red boxes were being driven home in air conditioned ministerial cars because of the sensitive nature of the documents they contain.

With documents now being viewed in electronic rather than paper format, many see the red box as having had their day.

One such politician is Mr Maude, who has been Cabinet Office minister – in charge of civil service reform – throughout the time of the Coalition. He has announced plans to step down as an MP at the election.

Unveiling his new phone, the minister said: ‘All my work emails are on this. This is my red box.

‘In the car on the way back I will be able to deal with two or three submissions just like that.

‘Whereas with the old BlackBerry, there were endless different passwords to get into it, with this – a modern iPhone, opens up with a thumb print. You go into email, first thing that comes up is two Parliamentary questions for me to check – I can do that quickly, it’s done. I can do it from anywhere.

‘The cost of this technology is infinitely cheaper that what it has replaced, and its infinitely better.’

Mr Maude said ministers in the Cabinet Office were already using the iPhones instead of red boxes, as are ministers in Sajid Javid’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

He said he hoped that other departments would take up the new scheme and eventually phase out their reliance on red boxes.

‘It’ll vary. All ministers have different ways of working – so we need to adapt to it differently.

‘Different ministers will work in different ways; some ministers will still want a red box and others will breathe a sigh of relief about not having to lug the bloody thing around. They’ll be much happier with an iPhone in a pocket.’

Mr Maude said that if material was of a very sensitive nature, it would not be viewed on the iPhone. It would instead be looked at on paper back in the Cabinet Office, which has an office on Whitehall.

‘If I have to see cybersecurity-type stuff, very high levels of security-type stuff, it’s better to have one place in the Cabinet Office and I can view it there.’

The most famous red box of all, the Budget box, contains the speech the Chancellor is about to make, although on one occasion Norman Lamont used it to hold a half bottle of whisky for him to drink at the despatch box.

Traditionally, Gladstone’s battered budget box from 1860 was carried, but wear and tear means a newer one is now used for the Downing Street photo opportunity.

In late 2010, Michael Gove’s wife Sarah Vine revealed that ministers’ red boxes followed them in ‘air-conditioned splendour’ a chauffeur-driven limo.

In May, soon after taking office, the Coalition published a new ministerial code which said ministers should use public transport, where practicable. But within weeks it became clear that the situation was not all it seemed.

Miss Vine, the wife of the then Education Secretary, revealed: ‘The red box arrives unannounced at all hours in a chauffeur-driven car, the engine purring deferentially as her handler walks her to the front door.

‘My husband is free to travel home by Tube, taxi, bicycle or carrier pigeon, but the RB must arrive in air-conditioned splendour, snug and secure in the back of a locked car.’

Written by Maraaz

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