On Tuesday Parliament held a short debate on the Seaborne Freight contract and amongst a mixture of claims and arguments that were made, two from Tories stood out as being based either on confusion, exaggerations or lies. It is disturbing when such things happen that there is no way for the rest of society to call for Parliament to explain what has happened and so that leaves the rest of us to use social media including blogs like this to attempt to challenge the people concerned. All that said it should not be treated as being as important as the failure by Chris Grayling to explain what is going on. His consistent responses show that he as a Minister is not in any sense willing to answer questions set out by Parliament, let alone the rest of us. So first the comments made by Nicholas Soames and Craig Mackinlay which require a brief explanation regarding the history of Seaborne Freight.
Seaborne Freight was formed in April 2017 by Glenn Dudley who is based in Hove. Seven months later in November 2017 Seaborne was merged with another company called Albany Shipping which involved three Board members, Ben Sharp and two colleagues who had only joined Albany a month earlier. A fifth Board member also joined who had been working in the same company as Glenn Dudley for a number of years although unlike Glenn he appears to have moved on from that company before Seaborne was formed. So that is the potted history which is in the public domain.
NS: My right hon. Friend will be aware that Seaborne Freight has had it in mind for well over two years to start the Ostend-Ramsgate route. Does he agree that the constant denigration of the contract, which means that the contractor will not get a single penny of anyone’s money until it fulfils the contract, is damaging to sensible work?
Now of course it may well be that Nicholas has known Glenn Dudley or Ben Sharp for some time longer than they have been Directors of a Company that was formed a lot less than two years ago and he is mistakenly confusing their views as individuals with their decisions as Directors of the Company, but Parliament is supposed to be a place of clarity, not fuzzy understanding.
CM: I have met Seaborne Freight, which has shown itself, over a number of years, to be the only party interested in running new services between Ramsgate and Ostend—that was even before this contingency planning. Personally, I welcome the dredging and improvements now taking shape at the port of Ramsgate at no cost to local taxpayers. We will have a regeneration bonus, no matter what, and I welcome that.
The contingency planning has been in place for well over the two years as it was stated in the House of Lords by Lord Callanan on 25th October 2018 that it had been “under way for two years”. Therefore either Craig is telling an outrageous lie or else he is so ignorant he needs challenging as an MP to make him credible.
On a final note from the comments by Chris Grayling he stated: “The Government are told time and again that we should contract and work with small business, and help small businesses to develop, but when we do so, we get nothing but a wall of criticism from Opposition Members.” And later on he explained to another MP: “I keep telling the hon. Lady that the £14 million will not be paid unless Seaborne Freight delivers a service”
Now my view as someone who helps to run a small business, that dredging Ramsgate and preparing for a major piece of work as a Ferry contract cannot be carried out by a business without payment by the Government or Local Authority. When the Conservatives claim to be the supporters of small businesses they need to treat them with respect and pay them for the work they do. Otherwise this is a pure abuse of a small business, no matter how poor its credibility may be!