Chris Grayling left red-faced as Government agrees £33m payout to Eurotunnel over Brexit ferry fiasco

Posted On: 
1st March 2019

Chris Grayling has been hit with fresh humiliation after the Government agreed to pay £33m to Eurotunnel over a bungled Brexit ferry contract.

Labour called on the Transport Secretary to resign
Credit: 
PA Images

Ministers agreed the out-of-court settlement after the Channel Tunnel operator accused them of handing out “secretive” contracts and sued them.

In December, the Department for Transport awarded contracts worth £108m to three ferry companies in a bid to expand lorry freight capacity in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

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But it was left embarrassed after it emerged one of the firms, Seaborne Freight, had no experience and owned no ships.

The £13.8m agreement was scrapped earlier this month after the department admitted the firm would “not reach its contractual requirements”.

In a further blow, the Transport Secretary announced he had struck a deal with Eurotunnel rather than battle it out in the courts.

As part of the agreement the operator has committed to improve security and traffic flow to ensure medicines and vital goods can reach UK in the absence of a Brexit deal.

Mr Grayling insisted the deal struck with Eurotunnel would ensure the Channel Tunnel is ready for a “post-Brexit world”.

“The agreement with Eurotunnel secures the Government’s additional freight capacity, helping ensure that the NHS has essential medicines in the event of a no deal Brexit,” he said.

“While it is disappointing that Eurotunnel chose to take legal action on contracts in place to ensure the smooth supply of vital medicines, I am pleased that this agreement will ensure the Channel Tunnel is ready for a post-Brexit world.”

'ROUTINE INCOMPETENCE'

The embarrassment came just hours after a damning National Audit Office report slammed probation reforms implemented by Mr Grayling when he was Justice Secretary. The spending watchdog estimated the cost to the taxpayer of just under £500m.

Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald accused Mr Grayling of "serial failure and routine incompetence".

He said: “On the same day a National Audit Office report highlights that disastrous decisions by Chris Grayling at the Ministry of Justice have wasted nearly half a billion pounds of public money we also learn that the Transport Secretary’s misjudgement over the award of a ferry contract has left taxpayers liable for £33 million in compensation to Eurotunnel.

“This follows a damning Public Accounts Committee report on Wednesday on his mismanagement of the railways.

“His conduct as a minister is one of serial failure and routine incompetence. In any other sphere of life he would have been sacked long ago.

"I say yet again: this trail of destruction has gone on long enough. It’s time for Chris Grayling to go.”

PM 'HAS CONFIDENCE' IN GRAYLING

Asked this morning if the Prime Minister still had confidence in Mr Grayling, a spokeswoman said: "Yes she does."

She said: “We took a decision to come to an out of court agreement to ensure that vital goods would not be put into jeopardy in a no-deal scenario. Our view is that a court case would have put at risk that extra vital freight capacity that we have secured already and settling allows us to concentrate on the job at hand of continuing with our no deal contingency planning.”

The spokeswoman added: "The Transport Secretary is leading his department through some very important projects, including delivering massive investment in the railway network, securing backing for a third runway at Heathrow and so on."