New franchise fiasco revelations raise serious questions about Ministerial responsibility & require independent inquiry - Maria Eagle

5 October 2012

Maria Eagle

- Ministers received report warning of flaws in franchise process on 10 August, five days before contract awarded

- Risk evaluation failures that have emerged as key issue were raised by Labour before contract was signed

- Economic assumptions revealed only to have been checked at a late stage

- Cost to taxpayers set to soar significantly from initial £40million as other stalled franchises lead to compensation claims and 

First considers legal action

- 'Independent' inquiry to be chaired by a member of the Department for Transport board.

- Government still claiming responsibility rests with three junior civil servants

Maria Eagle MP, Labour's Shadow Transport Secretary , responding to the latest revelations about the West Coast rail franchise tender process, said:

"Every day brings fresh revelations of the staggering ineptitude by Tory Ministers that caused this franchise fiasco at a cost to taxpayers of £40million and rising. Despite the Government's attempts to dump the blame on civil servants, it now appears that Ministers received a report warning of the problems with the tender process five days before awarding the contract. It is increasingly clear that risk evaluation failures are at the heart of this scandal, yet Labour warned that thids may be the case before the contract was signed by the Secretary of State. The fact that key economic assumptions were apparently only checked at a very late stage in the process is just extraordinary.

"It is vital that we get to the bottom of the role of Ministers and who knew what when. It is scandalous that the review of what has been a huge failure of government is to be conducted by a senior figure from within the Department for Transport. We need a truly independent inquiry led by a figure unconnected to the DfT examining the role of officials from top to bottom, including ministers. There must be no scapegoating."