Lie, damn lies and statistics


seaborne freight logo.docxThis morning it has emerged that the Government’s contract with Seaborne Freight has been cancelled and they claim the reason for this is that another company called Arklow Shipping Unlimited has withdrawn as one of the backers of the proposal. The Department for Transport has claimed that it could not refer to Arklow during the earlier announcements due to the commercial nature of the arrangement. So to get to the statistics first, there is a website called Experian which enables company details to be made available to those who subscribe to the website. The details are a way of helping businesses to determine who to work with. The data is intended to help to understand how to treat companies and the two companies that were clearly involved in the project from the beginning of January are listed.  The score is based on a percentage and anything below 70 is very concerning. Add to this that credit limits of at least 10 times those shown are expected from credible small businesses.

Company Score Risk Credit Current Long Term / Fixed
Limit Rating Assets Liabs Assets Liabs
Seaborne 49 Above Average £750 £500 7k 0.4m 35k 0
Albany 45 Above Average £750 £500 98 94k 0 0

Because Arklow is an Irish Company my Experian account which only covers the UK does not include their details. However there are numerous other websites to go to and after a bit of a search it becomes clear that Arklow owns or leases around 56 ships but because it is an unlimited Company, it is not required to file financial accounts. There are 10 Directors and two shareholders. No doubt the Government was capable of gaining information from the company, but any company that owns 56 ships and is identified as the largest shipping company in Ireland is clearly a very large company, if very opaque!

The Lie relates to the fact that a major contract set up in case we leave the EU without a deal was in reality a contract with a major Irish Unlimited Company channelled through a small and weak company whose credibility is very low. It is vital that our Government tells the true information even if they are needing to protect commercial arrangements. If they had explained that Seaborne and Albany (they share the same directors as I explained in my blog a few weeks ago) were simply acting as the agents or representatives for a partnership or some form of collaborative arrangement then this would at least have taken away some of the concerns (and perhaps added others to the mix). However if Arklow has withdrawn now, what was in place to stop it withdrawing on 29th or 30th March when the ferries were supposed to be operating?

The damn lies are ones told by MPs such as Chris Grayling a month ago on 8th January in a debate about this contract. Some relate to the fact that Seaborne would deliver the contract when it is now clear it was Arklow who having withdrawn mean that the ‘deal with Seaborne’ is over. Others overlooked that Seaborne was formed in April 2017 and was only 21months old while Lord Callanan, a Government Minister had claimed on 25th October that contingency planning for a No Deal Brexit had been “under way for two years” so well over two years.

Nicholas Soames: 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.

Craig Mackinlay: 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.

Chris Grayling: from the due diligence we have done, there is no reason to believe that anyone involved in this business is not fit to do business with the Government…..This procurement was done properly and in a way that conforms with Government rules. …..This contract was properly signed off by my Department’s accounting officer, and it was done in the best possible way when dealing with a new business……There seems to be visceral hatred of small business on the other side of the House and a visceral belief that the Government should not be willing to contract with small business. 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….There is a complete lack of understanding of business models on the Opposition Benches…..The Government are frequently criticised for contracting only with big business and not with small business. Ironically, now we are contracting with small business for a small part of a package we need, we are getting criticised for it, so we cannot win either way…..My officials have had detailed discussions with the management team and have gone through their plans in detail…. This is a team of people who have experience in this industry and who we believe will deliver this service….The fact is that we have chosen to give a small proportion of the business to a legitimate bid from a small start-up business, and I think that is something the Government should do more often, not less.

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
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