The British Government has paid private limousine firms £2.7 million over the past two years so that Ministers can be ferried around in luxury.
Twenty-one companies with fleets of expensive cars have contracts with the Government Car Service, the Whitehall agency that is supposed to have sole responsibility for transporting Ministers and officials on Government business.
The firms, which are based all over Britain, are required to provide an "executive-level chauffeur service using executive-class saloons" - with the Mercedes E-class or similar model specified as suitable vehicles in the contract bidding form.
The Mail on Sunday obtained the list from the Department for Transport after our report a week ago which revealed that senior Labor figures, including Commons Speaker Michael Martin, are secretly whisked around in cars considerably more comfortable than the environmentally friendly models in the Government car pool.
Some of the firms work exclusively for the Government and their drivers undergo rigorous security checks. David Littleboy, who runs Citydrive (UK) Ltd from his home in Bexley, Kent, said: "I've had a Government contract for about ten years which is renewed every two years.
The Mercedes E-class, meanwhile, has a more spacious interior, sells for between £27,802 and £67,597 and comes in four categories depending on the level of comfort required - Classic, Elegance, Avantgarde and Sports.
The Department for Transport, which is responsible for the agency, said private firms were used to cover at peak periods and outside normal working hours - although the GCDA claims on its website to offer a 24-hour, 365-days-a-year nationwide service.
Vanessa Arellano Doctor