My Lords, the truth is that the Secretary of State is now regarded as so incompetent by his colleagues that they did not dare let him answer his own questions. I regret the pathetic attempt to dress this up as a Health question, but I am sure the Minister will be more than able to answer my Transport questions.
“What assessment have the Government undertaken of the impact on the Channel Tunnel of additional ferry services which, unlike existing ferry services, will be subsidised by the Government?”.
The Minister replied:
“We consider the contracts to be entirely consistent with the Government’s agreement with Eurotunnel”.—[Official Report, 21/1/19; col. 501.]
This started as a piece of post-Christmas pantomime and has descended into Whitehall farce. The Minister stressed to us in earlier answers that the Department for Transport took legal advice from prominent, well-known advisers Slaughter and May, Deloitte and Mott MacDonald. Not only did they apparently fail to notice that Seaborne Freight had no ships and was offering pizzas on its website; they also apparently failed to notice that giving £100 million to subsidise ferries would distort the market, to the obvious disadvantage of Eurotunnel.
I have two questions: can the Government confirm that all three of the Department for Transport’s expert advisers were satisfied with this scheme, its probity and its practicality? Can the Minister confirm how much the Government paid for this apparently faulty advice on the ferry contracts that have led to the taxpayer having to dish out a further £33 million?