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Government to terminate its contract with cab firm Addison Lee

Blow to company comes on same day TfL secured injunction in bus lane row

London minicab firm Addison Lee is set to lose the sole contract it currently has with the Government for private hire car services. The decision is linked to chairman John Griffin’s instruction to his drivers a fortnight ago to use illegally bus lanes. Yesterday, Transport for London (TfL) won an injunction against the company on that very issue.

Yesterday evening, cycle trade website BikeBiz reported that it had seen emails from the government’s Chief Procurement Officer John Collington to freelance journalist Marcus Williamson that confirmed that he had been working on the case "as a matter of urgency."

Mr Collington added: “We expect all private hire vehicles in London to adhere to the prohibition on using bus lanes. In regard to Addison Lee, the only existing government contract with the company will expire at the end of this month and is not being renewed."

The size and nature of the contract is unknown, but the loss of it is significant in PR terms and will come as a blow to the company following a fortnight in which it has battled to rescue its reputation as a result of a backlash against that instruction to drivers to break the law as well as comments about cyclists made by Mr Griffin.

Earlier this month, the Guardian reported that Mr Griffin, who through his company has donated £250,000 to the Conservative Party, met with then Transport Secretary Philip Hammond in October last year.

The previous year, Mr Hammond had ordered the removal of the M4 bus lane, something that Addison Lee had been lobbying for since 1999, unsuccessfully until the Coalition Government came to power.

Details of last October’s meeting were released under the Freedom of Information Act, with the exclusion of minicabs but not licensed taxis from London’s bus lanes among the topics discussed.

The Addison Lee boss also spoke at length with the Transport Secretary about his firm potentially being able to provide secure cars to ministers, although Mr Hammond outlined that there were “concerns around the provision of cars for ministers related to security clearance of the driver and maintaining the security of the car."

While the minister added that no decision had been taken on whether or not to privatise the fleet, he did add that relevant factors would include having sufficient cars available to ensure that government ministers could get to the House of Commons to take part in key votes.

Mr Griffin’s comments about cyclists, initially made in the company magazine Add Lib and which emerged late last week, were widely described as his ‘Ratner moment’ – a reference to the jewellery retailer Gerald Ratner whose company almost collapsed in the early 1990s after he described its products as “total crap.”

A number of companies have already cancelled their accounts with the business or to have initiated a review, and with the Government now terminating its own contract with Addison Lee, it is likely that more will follow in deciding that they no longer wish to use its services.

Mr Griffin spoke on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning alongside Eleanor Besley of Sustrans to discuss his views of cyclists and the issue of bus lanes. He wasn't talking from the studio, however, as had originally been planned, since he was stuck in traffic, and confirmed that he hadn't attempted to use a bus lane to try and get there in time.

Former Transport Secretary John Prescott, who crossed swords with Mr Griffin while in office over the M4 bus lane, spoke during another segment of the programme about the changing relationship between politicians and the press in the light of the Levesen enquiry, and talked of how the news agenda was now being driven by users of social media such as Twitter, citing the case of Addison Lee as a prime example.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Bob's Bikes | 12 years ago

Maybe I'm being naive but isn't telling people to break the law a crime in it's self? and should this idiot not be taken to court for this.

giff77 | 12 years ago

According to the Independent. Today, the contract was with the Dept for Work and Pensions. Other depts made use of addilee under this as well. It has definately been a Ratner moment for Mr Griffin. Hopefully all these cancelled contracts stay cancellled and companies are not forced back into Griffin's embrace due to the 'monopoly' he has as the largest mini cab company in the UK.

Simon_MacMichael | 12 years ago

That could well be part of it, Paul M, but another part of the jigsaw dropped into place for me tonight.

It's only a few weeks since we had the storm in the papers about the £250k kitchen suppers with David Cameron.

Coincidentally, that's the same sum Addison Lee has given the Conservative Party over the past couple of years.

Now, we don't know whether he met the PM, but we do know that he met the former Transport Secretary, and that Philip Hammond scrapped the M4 bus lane withing months of the Coalition being formed - something Griffin had fought for during the previous ten years.

So, people are already scrutinsing Conservative donors, and looking at whether they have gained any benefits in dealings with the Government.

Meanwhile, Addison Lee is suddenly generating an awful lot of bad publicity for itself, newspapers such as the Guardian are starting to join the dots, and that contract is coming up for renewal.

My hunch is that someone in Government - and almost certainly not the civil servant making the statement - has decided the best thing to do is sever all ties and hang Addison Lee out to dry.

I could be wrong, but I think there's a few things that point towards that, or something very similar.

Paul M | 12 years ago

Somehow I odn't think the bus lane comments are the real reason why the contract is not being renewed.

If it was due to expire on Monday night, you can be sure that alternative arrangements, or a renewal, would have been negotiated and agreed well before now, and before the bus lane controversy.

As a regular user (corporate preferred supplier) of AdLee I can quite imagine why the government would have concluded, from experience, why AdLee is not suitable. No disrespect to the individuals involved, but I suspect the drivers' backgrounds are quite often a little murky or at least difficult to verify to the standard that a terrorism-paranoid organisation like HMG would no doubt demand.

Not that I mind if the anti-cyclist rants are seen to be behind this - certainly a number of commercial contracts have cancelled, and my own employer demanded assurances that this nonsense would stop.

I see Griffin "supports Cyclesafe" - which just goes to show that the Times campaign can mean all things ot all people. No surprise there.

pwake | 12 years ago

 41 Like!

OldRidgeback | 12 years ago

Well, he's losing business as a result of his ignorance. Maybe he'll learn a lesson, though probably not.

nowasps | 12 years ago

The Today programme glossed over Griffin's comments about cyclists, and gave him a very soft ride. When the Sustrans spokeswoman tried to raise the "road tax" issue she was very quickly shouted down by Justin Webb.

SideBurn | 12 years ago

Clearly he needs to make another generous an 'no strings' donation to the Conservative party; any connection to current events purely coincidental.

antonio | 12 years ago

Pedal Power !!

notfastenough | 12 years ago

what a knob!  21

thereverent | 12 years ago

Good to see  21

zzgavin | 12 years ago

That's going to hurt Mr Griffin, foolish man.

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