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Seaborne Freight has no boats, negative equity of £374,000 and no history of running ferry or freight services. The current director, Brian Raincock, and chief executive Ben Sharp both had companies liquidated owing Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs money, with Raincock’s debt at £600,000. HMRC is us, the taxpayer, so what constitutes due diligence? What red flags were identified? How did that company get handpicked for direct negotiations for operating out of a port that is not even ready?
The Secretary of State’s written statement indicated that direct negotiation was possible under regulation 32 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, which relates to emergency situations brought about by unforeseeable events. However, the Government claim to have been planning for no deal for over two years. What legal advice was provided? What level of madness exists to contract contingency planning to a company with no track record of such service?
Saying that the company will get paid only if it can deliver misses the point, because if it does not deliver the so-called emergency contingency service, that would leave us high and dry. Is that the project for which the ministerial direction was required? Is there a central Government instruction and process for the awarding of such no-deal Brexit contracts? If so, can we see it? Does this contract comply with that guidance? If so, that highlights the shambles of this Government’s no-deal preparations. When will the Secretary of State do the right thing and go?