Transport for London commissioner Peter Hendy has wined and dined a series of leading Labour politicians in advance of Boris Johnson's departure from City Hall, Politics.co.uk can reveal.
Expenses claims released jointly to this website and Mayorwatch, reveal that Sir Peter took two potential mayoral candidates and one Labour shadow minister out for a series of dinners at public expense.
In February last year, Hendy took Labour MP Diane Abbott to the Quirinale restaurant in Westminster, where they enjoyed a meal together washed down with a bottle of Linard Gontier Champagne and Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac. The meal came to £176, with Hendy paying £40 out of his own pocket.
Hendy again took out Abbott in November last year, to the Groucho Club in Soho, where they enjoyed a £60 bottle of Perrier Jouet Champagne. They were also joined by deputy Metropolitan Police Commissioner Craig Mackey. The meal cost Londoners £182 in total.
Transport for London and Abbott have yet to comment on the purpose of the two meals, or what was discussed.
Labour shadow secretary of state Mary Creagh was also treated to a meal at the Groucho club with Hendy in September last year. The receipts reveal that Hendy also took out rumoured Labour mayoral candidate Lord Adonis on two occasions.
Adonis was widely tipped as a mayoral candidate last year but is not now expected to run. However he is now expected to form part of a potential Tessa Jowell administration. Speaking to Politics.co.uk, Adonis said the claims were a matter for Hendy. "I have breakfast with Peter Hendy from time to time to catch up. Sometimes he pays, sometimes I pay - his expenses are entirely a matter for him," he said.
Tessa Jowell is the current bookies favourite to replace Johnson as mayor. She was not listed in Hendy's expenses. However, a spokesperson for the Labour MP today confirmed to Politics.co.uk that she had also met with Hendy recently to discuss "transport in the capital"
Hendy was originally TfL commissioner under the last Labour London mayor Ken Livingstone. He was widely perceived by Johnson's supporters as being too close to Livingstone, and Johnson subsequently faced pressure to remove Hendy once he became mayor.
However, Johnson resisted the pressure and Hendy has continued to retain full control of TfL over Johnson's two terms.
Sources close to the TfL chief now say that he has no intention of leaving office once Johnson stands down next year either, insisting that he believes "there is a strong case for stability at the top of TfL".
A TfL spokesperson today defended the claims made by Hendy:
"Sir Peter Hendy is overseeing the delivery of a ten-year multi-billion pound budget to manage transport in London, and also deliver Crossrail and the upgrade of the Tube.
"He travels to and from work by public transport and uses public transport when travelling in the Capital on business.
"There are occasions when his full schedule necessitates the use of taxis, working late into the evening and sometimes hosting dinners with stakeholders. Some, but not all, of the expenses incurred are claimed."
Politics.co.uk first submitted a freedom of information request about Hendy's expenses in December last year. Details of his expenses for the past three years have now only been released following a complaint and request for internal review made by this website.