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Bid to slash Transport Secretary’s pay after East Coast Main Line debacle fails

The motion to cut Chris Grayling’s pay was defeated, with Tory MPs branding the move ‘vindictive’.

Labour’s attempt to force the Government to slash the pay of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has failed after being voted down by MPs.

The motion to cut Mr Grayling’s pay by £2,400 — the cost of a season ticket to London from his Epsom and Ewell constituency — was tabled after Labour deemed that his handling of the East Coast Main Line franchise agreement had “fallen desperately short” of a minister.

In a scathing attack, shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald accused the Transport Secretary of being “asleep at the wheel” and said he was “incapable of being direct with Members of Parliament and the public alike”.

He said: “Stagecoach knew they wouldn’t meet their revenue targets weeks after taking over the East Coast in March 2015; the company was in constant dialogue with the department about it.

“The Secretary of State has been in post since July 2016 and must have known about this for that period of time. Why did he do nothing? Hasn’t this Transport Secretary been asleep at the wheel?”

He added: “The strategic vision embodies a Secretary of State’s approach to his ministerial brief and to announcements in this House, smoke, mirrors, ambiguities, jargon, technicalities, empty aspirations and discourtesy.

“Like his time at justice, this Secretary of State must hope that he be moved on before his wrecking ball approach to decisions at the DfT reveal their true horrors.

“This Secretary of State seems to be incapable of being direct with Members of Parliament and the public alike.

“Given his track record, is it any wonder that no-one takes the East Coast partnership seriously? Where on earth did he come up with it? In the back of a taxi on the way to Parliament to deliver his statement?”

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Virgin trains

Paula Sherriff, Labour MP for Dewsbury, later said: “I’m quite worried that if we continue to say to the Secretary of State that we’ll cut his pay if he continues some of the incompetencies, that he will actually turn out to be on less than the minimum wage by that point.”

VTEC is the third private operator to fail to complete the full length of a contract to run services on the East Coast route.

GNER was stripped of the route in 2007 after its parent company suffered financial difficulties, while National Express withdrew in 2009.

Services were run by the DfT for six years until VTEC took over in 2015.

The franchising model is totally broken, it's finished, it's a dead parrot, it is no more Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald

Mr McDonald went on to welcome the move to bring the East Coast back under control of the DfT, telling MPs the franchising model is “totally broken, it’s finished, it’s a dead parrot, it is no more”.

Mr Grayling dismissed Labour’s motion, turning to Tory backbenchers to say it was “a lot of incoherence”.

He added: “I have been struck by how little Labour understands how the process for a situation like this has to be managed and indeed how little they appear to understand the financial structure of franchising or rail laws or the fact that Government has to operate within the legalities of the contracts and the laws that exist.”

Tory Simon Hoare (North Dorset) also spoke against the motion, telling MPs it was “vindictive”.

He said: “If there is any ideology that underpins this debate, it is the vindictiveness of some pettifogging deduction of a ministerial salary.”

The motion to slash Mr Grayling’s pay was voted down by 304 votes to 271 on Wednesday afternoon.

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