DAVID Cameron was hit by a new cash-for-access row last night over revelations a major Tory donor held talks about lucrative Government work with a Cabinet minister.
Taxi tycoon John Griffin, a star of TV’s Secret Millionaire who has given the party more than £250,000, used a lobbyist to set up the meeting with Philip Hammond when he was Transport Secretary.
The Addison Lee chief’s visit to the Department of Transport came less than a month after he gave the party two £50,000 donations on a single day, Electoral Commission records show.
Mr Griffin, whose London firm has a £170million annual turnover, discussed cutting the Government’s ministerial car service with Mr Hammond and employing firms like his own instead. He also talked about transport during the Olympics.
Last night the donor said he had also been to parties hosted by the Prime Minister at Downing Street and at Mr Cameron’s own home, where the PM’s wife Sam and the couple’s children were also present.
The visits to No10 were not revealed in the lists of wealthy backers entertained there, which aides were forced to produce after the cash-for-dinners scandal.
Disgraced Tory Treasurer Peter Cruddas resigned after boasting “premier league” supporters who give more than £250,000 are wined and dined by Mr Cameron and could even have a say on policy.
The latest cash-for-access row will come as a big blow to the PM who is still reeling from revelations about super-rich party donor Bill Ives, who was given a police caution for harassing his ex-wife.
Yesterday the Department for Transport insisted it was “entirely appropriate” for the Secretary of State to meet bosses of big transport firms.
But former Deputy PM John Prescott blasted: “It’s scandalous that Addison Lee paid the Tories a quarter of a million pounds, then touted for Government business.
“The taxpayer shouldn’t be taken for a ride by these modern day highwaymen.”
Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle added: “It’s shocking a ‘premier league’ donor was given this kind of access to the then Transport Secretary.
“People will rightly be asking if ministers were willing to have their ears bent by vested interests, either at ‘kitchen suppers’ with the Prime Minister or in official meetings with ministers.”
Details of Mr Griffin’s meeting with Mr Hammond, who is now Defence Secretary, came after he sparked anger yesterday by ordering his drivers to use bus lanes. At the moment rival black cabs can use the lanes but private hire vehicles are banned.
The issue was raised by Mr Griffin at his meeting with Mr Hammond on October 13 last year, official minutes released under freedom of information laws show. The records reveal: “They discussed the Olympics, provision of secure cars for ministers and the background of the development of Addison Lee as a company.”
Mr Hammond “made clear no decision had been taken and that any option to move away from the current model for delivering the service towards private sector provision would have to be completed in accordance with public procurement rules”.
Mr Griffin told the minister that “having a dedicated car pool was an expensive luxury that private companies no longer provided for their employees”.
The minutes state he said: “They tended to leave it to other people, such as Addison Lee, to provide an ‘on demand’ service where the car and driver would not necessarily remain the same.”
Mr Griffin last night insisted he was not fishing for contracts and said he would be much better off talking to civil servants because they are “more influential”.
Mr Griffin said he deals mainly with FTSE 500 firms. He added: “They are our people. The big shots, not politicians. Politicians don’t have contracts but I like to go along and say hello because it is civil.”
He added: “Politicians are not running the country. Businessmen are. They are the housewives. We give them the money.”
Mr Griffin also sought to play down his access to Mr Cameron.
He said: “I’ve been twice to Number 10 Downing Street with about 70 other people there. I never spoke to him personally. I wasn’t going to be a brown-noser.”
Mr Griffin confirmed he had also been to the PM’s Notting Hill home around three years ago for a summer tea party which was attended by Sam and their kids.
He added: “I think there are people out there, quite forceful, who think ‘I’ve paid some money and you owe me something’, maybe there are, but I’m not that person.”
A spokesman for Mr Hammond said last night: “He does not recall having any information about donations to the Party at the time or when he subsequently met Mr Griffin in October 2011.”
The Conservative Party added: “There is no question of individuals gaining an unfair advantage by virtue of financial contributions.”
Story taken from the daily mirror