A Week in Parliament

The Ship that didn’t sail

Readers may have read about the latest UK Government farce…the decision to award a ferry contract to a company that has no boats! I tried to get an urgent question on the subject, and one was granted, but in the name of the Labour Opposition. It has been established that the company has debts and no assets; no boats; no crew; the port of Ramsgate they are to operate from needs dredged before it can accommodate ferries; they have no licence yet or agreement that allows them to sail into Ostend Port which is supposed to be the end destination; one director had a company that was liquidated owing the taxman £600k; the chief executive ran a company that went bust with debts of £1.8m and one is under investigation by another UK Government department. And to top it all, their terms and conditions on their website was plagiarised from a pizza delivery company! Yet the Transport Secretary says that due diligence was done and he is happy to provide support to a new company!

Another twist is that under EU law contracts of this value need to be put out to EU wide competitive tender. The Department of Transport used a regulation for emergency procurement for unforeseeable circumstances. Given they say they have been planning for a “No Deal” Brexit for well over two years, then it cannot be an unforeseen outcome! I observed to the Secretary that if it is a contract for emergency purposes then it should go to a company with a track record. His response is that they won’t get paid if they don’t deliver and it is only 10% of the contract anyway. The whole point he misses is that it is a contract for an emergency situation so if the company doesn’t deliver then the emergency situation is not dealt with either! He could not explain to me what effect this 10% would have on the Port of Dover given how time sensitive it is. He also has not yet explained how such a company was identified for direct negotiation. This fiasco has more to run yet.

The Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, is responsible for delayed drone legislation which may have prevented the Gatwick incident; awarded an HS2 contract to Carillion even although there were signs they were going bankrupt; responsible for Northern Rail and Thameslink rail delays and timetable issues in England and allowed Virgin/Stagecoach to walk away from the East Coast Mainline owing the taxpayer £2bn pounds. How can one man be so incompetent?

Killie FC – 150 Years Old

Happy birthday to Kilmarnock FC. Many people will know I am a genuine fan, having ran a supporters bus for more than half my life and at one time, chair of the Supporters Association. It is great to see the improvements in the team under Stevie Clarke, the fans enjoying themselves again and the increase in attendances. There is no doubt that Killie doing well helps the local economy. Here’s hoping for success in 2019!

These views were first expressed in the Kilmarnock Standard.