Thameslink and Crossrail Contracts

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:00 pm on 20th November 2012.

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Photo of Chris Williamson Chris Williamson Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) 4:00 pm, 20th November 2012

I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman has not followed my contribution, because I outlined what I consider flaws in the process. First, this is a Government contract and it has not been treated as such; it has been treated differently. Secondly, it is discriminatory, because it gives an unfair advantage to one of the bidders for the contract. The Government are under an obligation to ensure that there is a level playing field for bidders for such a significant contract, especially when the unfair advantage is given to a foreign competitor against our own British-based train-making company. Those are the flaws. Regrettably, we do not have time to go into further detail. If we had a longer debate, perhaps we could do so. I hope that the Minister will deal with those specific points.

Let me return to the final few questions that I have for the Minister; I hope he will give them some attention. If the Department for Transport is unable to reach financial close with Siemens—there seems to be a large question mark over that—will Bombardier, as the reserve bidder, be automatically awarded the contract? Do alternatives that the Department is considering include allowing Siemens to build the trains and other organisations to provide the funding and finance? If Siemens fails to deliver on the Thameslink contract, will it be excluded from further bidding for the Crossrail contract? We deserve a response to that question, because there has clearly been a significant delay in the process. It would be inappropriate if Siemens were allowed to bid for another contract if it were unable to deliver on this one.

If Siemens is eventually awarded this contract, will the Minister give a commitment and assure us that we will not see a repeat of what happened under the Intercity Express Programme contract? In that case, the Bombardier consortium and the Hitachi-led consortium put in bids on one basis under the original tendering process. After preferred bidder status was conferred on the Hitachi consortium, there was substantial and significant change to the design of the IEP contract trains. That seems unfair, because, as I understand it, the design is now very similar to the offer that could have been delivered by Bombardier in the first instance, although it was not allowed to put that alternative design forward at that point.

Time is short and the Minister has only 11 minutes left, although there are still quite a few questions that I would like to ask. I hope he can answer some of my questions, especially the one about considering putting in place an independent inquiry to look at the workings of the DFT in relation to the procurement of trains.