Calamity-prone Chris Grayling has lied directly to Parliament, it seems, over the small fortune he spent on consultants in connection with Seaborne Freight, the ferry firm that had no ships.
We all know the story by now: Grayling authorised a contract for post “no deal” Brexit freight ferry work with Seaborne, a company that had no ships, no trading history, and no previous experience running such a service.
Not only that, but the firm’s internet page cut-and-pasted its terms and conditions from a takeaway website, its log-in portal was found to redirect directly to Google’s home page; and neither of the listed phone numbers appeared to be manned, with both stating ‘there is no one available to take your call’ and offering no chance to leave a message.
Other features, such as language settings, were only for show and could not be clicked; and despite Mr Grayling saying Seaborne was on track to run services from April, the firm’s recruitment page was empty when it was checked last month.
Last week it was revealed that the deal was being secretly supported by an Irish firm – Arklow Shipping – but this company had now backed out and for this reason, Mr Grayling was cancelling the £13.8 million deal.
All of that would normally be enough to cancel anybody’s contract of employment – but Mr Grayling is an MP, and we have already seen that they can get away with almost anything.
One thing they can’t avoid, though, is retribution for intentionally misleading Parliament, and it seems Mr Grayling may come unstuck on this point.
Responding to an urgent question on Seaborne in Parliament on February 11, Mr Grayling claimed that no taxpayers’ money had been wasted on it. He said: “We have spent no money on this contract.”
But a report by the National Audit Office from earlier this month contradicts the claim, stating that his department had “spent approximately £800,000 on its external consultants: Slaughter & May; Deloitte; and Mott MacDonald” in the procurement process.
Worse, the report states that Mott MacDonald had found “significant execution risks” in the bid from Seaborne Freight – and Deloitte claimed they could not complete the review of the firm because of “a lack of existing financial information due to [Seaborne Freight] only being incorporated in April 2017″.
Is that enough rope with which to hang him?
Some say Mr Grayling is kept in the Cabinet because he makes everyone else look competent.
Some might disagree with that. Let’s see what Theresa May has to say about it – if she even dares poke her ever-lengthening nose above the parapet.
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