Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Attlee derailed in the Lords

This from The Woolsack...

An amusing exchange this afternoon between Earl Attlee and My Lord Adonis in the House of Lords.

Attlee quoted a certain Prof David Begg a number of times in his speech, citing him as an expert commentator as based on his recent article in the Financial Times.

Adonis interjected asking whether Lord Attlee was aware David Begg is a member of First Groups' board?


Cue goldfish impression and shocked looks on the government benches. 

UPDATE: The House of Lords transcript from the Private Notice Question can be found here.

West in rebellion over high-handed commissioners

This epistle from My Lord Abbot of Pewsey...

Much commotion in the Vale of Pewsey as has not been seen since the Prayer Book Rebellion almost reached here in 1549!

 It was occasioned by the issuing of the Great Western franchising ITT.  This document seems to decree that direct links  between the West of England from the Metropolis should be severed once electric lines are installed. 

Pewsey travellers will be forced to change at Newbury, where apparently people have whistles blown at them.

At a packed meeting last week in the village hall the good citizens of the Vale expressed their great disquiet at this manifestation of what they have been told is called the 'sparks effect'.  

There was little satisfaction that such sainted figures as Christopher Stokes had denounced the current franchising methods in the Financial Times as not fit for purpose and a deep suspicion remains that there are those in the DfT who consider the local services on the Berks and Hants Railway as an irritating appendage that should be surreptitiously run down. 

As is the custom these days a petition has been established and prayers are also being offered for Richard Brown and those working with him, that they will be guided by good sense and that through travel will prevail.

UPDATE: This from Dreadnought...

Regarding the observation that people have whistles blown at them in Newbury.  

Not wishing to be pedantic but I think you will find that the tale related by Mr Gerard Francis Gisborne Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes OBE actually related to people from Newbury having whistles blown at them in Reading.

UPDATE: The Fact Compiler asks:

Do you come from Newbury? 

Have you had a whistle blown at you in an intimidating manner be a member of Western Region Staff?

Or perhaps you live in Reading and are more used to that sort of thing?

Either way Eye doesn't give a hoot or a shrill blast on the whistle... (That's enough being rude to readers on the Western. Ed)

Railway Peers scrutinise ICWC fiasco

Further proof that the Upper House continues to offer better scrutiny of the Executive than the Elected Chamber!

This from Railway Questions in the House of Lords yesterday...

Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Labour)
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their estimate of the cost to the public purse of cancelling the contract award for the West Coast Main Line railway franchise.

Earl Attlee (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport will make a full Statement in the other place at the earliest opportunity. The department will remunerate fully bidders for the direct and reasonable costs of putting together their bids and expects this cost to be approximately £40 million. The department expects additional costs from mobilising Directly Operated Railways, reissuing the tender and carrying out two independent reviews. The department will monitor these costs closely and be fully transparent in keeping the House informed.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Labour)
My Lords, it is very regrettable that the noble Earl has not taken the first opportunity in Parliament to say sorry for this fiasco. He should be truly ashamed of what has gone on so I invite him to take the opportunity to apologise. Why are the Government saying there have been regrettable and unacceptable mistakes and yet no Minister is accepting responsibility?

Earl Attlee (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)
My Lords, some noble Lords express disappointment that a full Statement has not been made. Nobody asked for a full Statement. I was very willing to answer a PNQ yesterday afternoon but there was not one because we have the topical question today. As for ministerial responsibility, noble Lords know perfectly well that this was a highly regrettable mistake by officials, not by Ministers.

Lord Bradshaw (Liberal Democrat)
Will the noble Earl send word to his colleagues elsewhere that no new franchises should be let for any railway until full consideration is made of the high level of risk which the Government are seeking to transfer to the private sector? I believe that the private sector is unable to bear that risk because predicting revenues 15 years hence is nearly impossible. I commend him to the Mayor of London who is running the London Overground railway on an entirely different basis where the revenue risk lies with the GLC and the people running the franchise are paid to operate the railway efficiently but are not expected to take these unbearable risks.

Earl Attlee (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)
My noble friend asks extremely good questions and that is the purpose of the Brown review which will look into the franchising system and report back to us by the end of the year.

Lord Adonis (Labour)

My Lords, does the noble Earl agree, given the scale of the debacle we have seen on the west coast main line, that the responsibility of senior officials and Ministers should be examined in the forthcoming review? Is he aware that since last Tuesday the only steps that have been taken have been the suspension of three fairly junior officials and the establishment of a review under a member of the DfT's own board, whose colleagues include all of the senior Ministers and officials of the department? Does the noble Earl agree that this is not a wise proceeding in public policy and it is probably not very moral either?

Earl Attlee (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)

My Lords, I do not agree with the noble Lord. The first step that the Government have taken is to set up two inquiries. The first one, headed up by Sam Laidlaw, will look at exactly what went wrong. If there was ministerial failure, no doubt he will identify that.

Lord Adonis (Labour)
Sam Laidlaw is a member of the DfT's own board. Is the noble Earl not aware of that?

Earl Attlee (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)

My Lords, if there is anything wrong with the report, the noble Lord will be able to challenge me in this House on that very point. The first inquiry will look at what went wrong. The second inquiry will look at the wider franchising issues, as I said in response to my noble friend. We should be proud of our civil servants. I certainly feel honoured to be served by them. However, officials are human and can make mistakes, even big ones. Nevertheless, I want to make it perfectly clear that I retain full confidence in my department's officials and I am more than content to account for their activities in your Lordships' House.

Meanwhile Baroness Royall will ask the Government about its review into the ICWC fiasco after today's oral questions (at about 15.30). View it live here.

Overheard at Breakfast - On DafT Recruitment

Scene: The kitchen in any number of railway households throughout the land..

Daughter: Daddy

Father: Yes Darling?

Daughter: Why is steam coming out of your ears?  Is eccentric uncle Philip at DfT having one of his turns.

Father: How very perceptive of you, my Angel.

Daughter: What is it this time Daddy?

Father: Well, Uncle Philip has asked head hunters to see if they can find some senior rail managers  to help Uncle Michael take over Intercity West coast from Uncle Richard.

Daughter: But Daddy, won't anyone senior enough already have a job.

Father: Probably dearest.

Daughter: Uncle Ivor used to run the West Coast  and he hasn't got a job.

Father: Hush dear, we don't mention Uncle Ivor since he went to China.

Daughter: What about Uncle David? He used to run East Coast and he's quite young too and mummy thinks he's dishy?.

Father: Luckily Uncle David is off to Ireland.

Daughter: Anyway Daddy, if Uncle Philip lets Uncle Michael take over the West Coast, won't he have to take over Great Western too when the franchise extension expires?

Father: Sounds logical, sweetheart.

Daughter: So he'd need even more experienced senior managers.  Uncle John used to run Intercity, he told us about it in the latest Modern Railways.

Father: Remind me to tell uncle James not to leave his magazine lying around where impressionable minds can pick it up.

Daughter: Anyway  Daddy why does Uncle Philip think that replacing Uncle Chris at West Coast and Uncle Mark at Great Western with managers who haven't got a job is a good idea?

Father: Nobody knows, now eat up your Weetabix

Out of the mouths of babes...

HS2 to be fast-tracked - DfT hopes for amnesia?

Call the Fact Compiler a cynic but he wonders whether the proposed fast tracking of HS2 is designed to draw a veil over recent ICWC events?

Tough luck, it won't work.

So let's be clear about what the DfT really needs to focus on now.

  1. Where is the remit for Richard Brown's review?
  2. Who is being asked to contribute to it.
  3. How can other interested parties make submissions
  4. What is the precise timeline for activities and implementation of any findings after Richard Brown reports back, allegedly on the 31st December.
As soon as possible, please.

Railway Garden Competition - Waterloo East

This from a Mr Greg T...

I thought Eye readers might be interested in these images from the Waterloo East Garden Centre:

The roof-bonsai are still doing well.

And here is a special artistic drain entry!
Magna cum laude!