Eurotunnel: Payment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 4th March 2019.

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Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Transport 5:45 pm, 4th March 2019

Once again, the Transport Secretary is not in his place to answer a question directed to him. His disregard for taxpayers and this House is clear. On Friday he reached a £33 million out-of-court settlement with Eurotunnel to provide services in the event of a no-deal Brexit because the Government were going to lose the case.

The Transport Secretary’s decision to bypass procurement processes in awarding a contract to Seaborne Freight, a ferry company without any ships, breached public procurement rules, and Eurotunnel had the Government over a barrel. Will the Minister now detail the total cost to taxpayers of this decision, including legal costs? How much money will be paid up front?

Eurotunnel will seemingly make Brexit-related improvements at Folkestone. Can the Minister say exactly what sort of agreement the Government have with Eurotunnel? What makes him think that this contract with Eurotunnel will not be challenged on anti-competition grounds? A former Department for Transport adviser said:

“there is a risk it could be construed as another piece of public procurement without open and transparent competition.”

That would risk further legal action and yet more public money being squandered.

Even in this golden age of ministerial incompetence, the Transport Secretary stands out from the crowd. He leaves a trail of destruction in his wake, causing chaos and wasting billions of pounds, yet he shows no contrition, no acknowledgment of his mistakes and no resolve to learn and improve. He is now ridiculed in The New York Times. The mayor of Calais has banned him from his town. The Transport Secretary has become an international embarrassment. The Prime Minister is the only person in the country who retains confidence in this failing Transport Secretary, and she does so only because of her own political weakness. The public deserve to know: how many more calamities is the Prime Minister prepared to tolerate? How many more billions of pounds will she allow him to waste before saying, “Enough is enough”? This country cannot afford this Transport Secretary. He should be sacked without delay.