Louise Ellman responds to publication of the Laidlaw Report on the West Coast Main Line Franchise
Speaking after the Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin gave a statement to the House of Commons, Transport Committee Chair Louise Ellman responded saying,
"Sam Laidlaw’s report is damning. It confirms his preliminary findings that the two final bidders for the West Coast Mainline Franchise - First Group and Virgin - were given confusing information and were treated inconsistently by the Department for Transport.
He makes it clear the Department was aware of serious problems that called into question the validity of the process and that despite this, it went ahead and awarded ‘preferred bidder’ status to First Group. This is unacceptable.
Mr Laidlaw has also raised serious issues about lines of responsibility and accountability within the Department such that there were ‘extensive and significant failures within the department to escalate risks and concerns’. His report appears to blame officials for many of these problems on the basis ministers were not made sufficiently aware, or were even misled. This begs serious questions about ministerial accountability.
Mr Laidlaw is already scheduled to give oral evidence on his findings to the Committee on 18 December. We look forward to questioning him on the flaws he has identified in the process, including how spending cuts have left the Department denuded of sufficient resources and staff to manage a robust franchising process.
We also look forward to questioning the Secretary of State in the near future on the full costs of this debacle to the taxpayer, something his statement today did not address."