EU Exit Preparations: Ferry Contracts

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:12 pm on 5th March 2019.

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Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy) 1:12 pm, 5th March 2019

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I spoke earlier about the systemic procurement failures in the Department for Transport. It is clear there is a common thread between the systemic failure in the privatisation and procurement of probation services and the man who is now in charge at the Department for Transport, who is sitting here lackadaisically thinking everything is okay in the world and he is doing a fine job. I am sorry but that is not the case and that is not how it is seen in the wider country.

I will now return to some questions raised in the Chamber that have still not had satisfactory answers. The permanent secretary at the Department for Transport told the PAC that the Department had awarded Seaborne the contract before Arklow confirmed its backing. So the Transport Secretary needs to be able to provide further clarity on that. We return to the question: where were the written guarantees that he was supposedly assured about from Arklow before it walked away? It is shameful that it turns out that as far as we know no written guarantees were given by Arklow, yet when it walked away some of the most hard Brexiteers, the right-wing Brexiteers, said it was an Irish conspiracy because Arklow is an Irish company. That is shameful. It was the Department for Transport not doing its due diligence

Additionally, the director general at the Department for Transport said that it was no longer possible to complete procurement and operation for any large amount of further capacity across the channel before the end of March by either sea or rail. Can the Secretary of State explain that? Can he explain how the sudden £33 million settlement with Eurotunnel, if it is going to provide all these vital services at the end of March, stacks up against the fact that the previous argument was that the Department no longer had time to be able to source those additional services?

In relation to Seaborne Freight, the Secretary of State said that

“we have spent no money on this contract.”—[Official Report, 11 February 2019;
Vol. 654, c. 619.]

I ask him once again if he could please spell out the real financial implications of that award to Seaborne Freight and the handling of the direct negotiations.