Yesterday, Chris Grayling, the embattled transport secretary, faced another round of calls for him to step down from his post over allegations that he may have misled the parliament in saying that no taxpayer money was spent on the Brexit ferry contracts of the government.
Today, Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, issued a point of order in the House of Commons over the statement of Grayling that “we are not spending money unless these ferries operate.”
Yesterday, it was revealed in a report by the National Audit Office, the UK spending watchdog, that the UK government has spent approximately £800,00 on external consultants Slaughter and May, Deloitte and Mott MacDonald on the said contracts, which were awarded to DFDS, Seaborne Freight, and Brittany Ferries.
Last weekend, the UK government was compelled to withdraw the £13.8 million contract with Seaborne Freight after Arklow Shipping, the firm’s backers, stepped away from the deal.
With regards to the payment to the consultants, McDonald stated: “The ministerial code says ‘It is of paramount importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the prime minister.”
A spokesperson from the DfT stated: “No taxpayer money has been transferred to Seaborne. The legal advice in question covered the entire procurement process and was required for all extra freight capacity contracts with the three operators.”
He added: “As the NAO has made clear, the Department for Transport acted transparently and competitively throughout the process of securing extra freight.”
The pressure also intensified on Grayling following the declaration of Channel Tunnel operators Eurotunnel and France-Manche SA that they would sue the DfT over the procurement process for the said contracts.
The DfT said that it “undertook a competitive procurement process to secure additional ferry capacity between the UK and the EU, which is in line with proper procedures.”