Good morning, Mr Speaker. It is a pleasure to share the day of love with my colleagues under your watchful gaze this morning.
I have met port operators and their representatives on a number of occasions to discuss matters of current concern, including preparations for the UK leaving the EU.
Welsh ports, including Newport, have experienced strong growth and investment in recent years, contributing £1.4 billion to the UK economy. In a week in which we have witnessed Government mishandling and the Seaborne Freight fiasco, and just weeks away from the Brexit date, what confidence can we have that Transport Ministers are taking serious steps to avoid jeopardising our Welsh ports?
We are in constant communication with port operators, including Associated British Ports, which I believe has invested heavily in the port to prepare for Brexit and all the extra opportunities that will arise. We must not forget that our ports and maritime sector was great before we joined the EU and it will continue to be great after Brexit. Most of our ports are well used to dealing with traffic from both inside and outside the European Union and we will do everything we can to ensure that that continues.
The port of Immingham is open for business and looking to increase that business as a result of Brexit. Can the Minister confirm that she has had discussions with ABP about the further use of Immingham?
I can. My hon. Friend is a great champion of the port of Immingham and I know I have an open invitation from him to visit it. I have indeed discussed that port with ABP and it has confirmed that ports across the country are looking forward to the extra business and trade that will come their way post Brexit.
On 8 January, the Secretary of State told the House that no public money was used in the Seaborne Freight contract, yet the National Audit Office says that £800,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent on consultants. The Prime Minister says that things are hunky-dory, but it has been revealed that the Department bypassed its own procurement rules to award a high-risk contract to Seaborne. Will the Minister acknowledge that the Secretary of State has, however inadvertently, misled the House and has not followed his Department’s procurement processes?
That is such a ridiculous statement to make. It is just inaccurate. There are complaints when due diligence is not done and complaints when due diligence is done. When funding is allocated and spent within the Department, due diligence is carried out for a variety of reasons. What is interesting is that the Labour party is against business, against us helping our port sector and against Brexit. It would be interesting to know what it actually stands for.
Poor, very poor. The Secretary of State is, presumably, simply never wrong, but what about the timetabling mess on the trains, the east coast bail out, multiple transport and justice contracts to Carillion, the book ban on prisoners, court fees that push the innocent to plead guilty, and the catastrophic privatisation of probation and prisons? His ongoing presence in the Government makes an international laughing stock of us all. Quite simply, the country cannot afford him. So I ask in all sincerity: will he please step down before he does any further damage?
I am not quite sure what show we are on, but this is Transport questions and the hon. Gentleman attacking an individual because he has nothing left to say is absolutely embarrassing. We have record investment in our infrastructure. I believe that under the Labour Government infrastructure investment in our country dropped from seventh to 33rd. Labour is not a party for our country. May I just reflect on ports? Our ports are doing a fantastic job trading, they do the majority of trade outside the EU and they will continue to do really good trade post Brexit.