Don't blame me for Ferry debacle says Grayling

11 Feb 2019

Transport secretary and Epsom MP Chris ‘Failing’ Grayling has yet again swerved demands for his resignation, writes Ian Strutt.

Labour called for his head in the Commons this afternoon, but Failing Grayling resorted to his usual response: ‘It wasn’t my fault.’

So, who was at fault in signing a contract for an emergency no-deal Brexit ferry service with a new company which had no ferries?

Failing Grayling immediately spread the blame. The decision, he told the Commons, had been made by the Department for Transport jointly with the Treasury.

He described that everything was going swimmingly until the Irish company, which was financially backing the new English company he had signed the contract with, had suddenly pulled out.

Failing Grayling admits that he had signed a contract with a new company which (1) had no track record of providing services and (2) at no point had any control of its own future.

He explained to MPs in the Commons that two ships had been identified for the English shipping company to buy. However, purchasing ships is not like buying a lorry and popping around the corner to get an MoT.

I used to write a monthly newspaper column about ship sale and purchase. Seldom was buying or selling a ship a straightforward process.

Buying another company’s ships usually means that they need substantial modifications for their new roles. Often, secondhand ships need bringing up to ‘class’ (ensuring they meet set safety and mechanical standards for their roles).

Invariably, this would require the ships to be dry docked and overhauled, all of which takes time we have not got before May’s no deal Brexit deadline.

These ships were needed to bring in emergency supplies. Failing Grayling even told the Commons that these supplies included urgent medical supplies for the NHS.

So, here we have a transport secretary who has totally misjudged the difficulties of buying and operating ferries. He simply does not have a clue about transport. Yet, he told the Commons that he is ‘going nowhere,’ as they say in footballing circles.

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