After I wrote about the Eurotunnel £33m settlement last week, an urgent question was granted in the House of Commons. It was asked to the Department of Transport, but the UK Government decided to put up the Health Secretary to respond instead! Suddenly we were told, it was not compensation but a good deal to keep the supply of medicines going in the event of a no deal. What absolute rubbish!
Those arguments fooled no-one. It was the first time that the reasoning for the additional contracts was this medicines based argument. If this were the case, surely the original ministerial statement would have covered that aspect? Or the two previous urgent questions? Or the 8 SNP oral questions at Transport Questions?
Given the frustrations at lack of answers, I made an application to put a case for an emergency debate. The process is that I have to give my reasons just to make an application. The speaker decides whether I will be allowed to make an application, which takes the form of a 3 minute speech. He then announces the decision as to whether to grant the debate and if so when it will take place. It is very rare to be granted an emergency debate, so I was glad firstly, just to be able to make my 3 minute pitch and then as much delighted and panicky that I was getting the debate as the first item of business! This meant I had minimal time to prepare a proper speech for the main debate. I then had a fear of dreaded not remembering all the things I needed to highlight and only talking a few minutes which would have missed the point of calling for the debate! There is so much to talk about that I was on my feet for half an hour although that also involved taking interventions from other MPs.
Apart from at least getting the transport secretary to the dispatch box, when I did my summing up I was able to conclude that we still did not get the answers we were looking for. However, he then came back and announced he had now decided to publish the main terms of agreement with Eurotunnel. What the annexes proved was that the medicine supply was a bluff and we as taxpayers will not see a penny of the £33m in the event of a withdrawal agreement being reached with the EU. Had I not secured the debate, this would have been hidden away.
It has now been calculated that the decisions and mistakes from Chris Grayling as firstly Justice Secretary, and now as Transport Secretary have cost us, the taxpayers £2.7bn. How can he still be in a job?
Ayrshire Growth Deal
I was delighted to be at the Heads of Terms signing of this. A quarter of a billion pound investment committed to Ayrshire. This will generate thousands of jobs over a 10-15 year period. In East Ayrshire the focus is on manufacturing investment and an energy innovation centre so this could see many highly paid and skilled jobs coming to the area.
These views were first expressed in the Kilmarnock Standard.