Opinion Former Article

Unite: Government loaded the dice against Britain's last train maker

Unite, Britain's biggest union, has called on the government to halt the 'murky' Thameslink procurement process following the transport select committee's damning recommendations.

Unite welcomes the committee's recommendation for the National Audit Office to conduct a review of the Thameslink procurement process, which led to Britain's last train maker, Bombardier losing out to a consortium led by Siemens.

Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey said:

"It is an outrage that the British government loaded the dice against British jobs. It is now time to lift the lid on the murky dealings which stopped this country's last train maker from building trains for our railways.

"The select committee's report is a damning indictment of the government. The Thameslink contract has been shrouded in a veil of secrecy. It will be a national scandal if the Transport Secretary refuses to put the Thameslink contract on hold to allow a full inquiry.

"We have consistently argued that the government failed to think about the social and economic consequences of its decision to put tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs on the scrapheap. It appears a decision was also based on the preffered bidder's ability to raise cash rather than build trains.

We now hope that the Government will do the right thing and act on the Select Committee's recommendations and also learn lessons for the future."

ENDS

Contact: Ciaran Naidoo on 07768 931 315

Notes to editors

REPORT: Thameslink rolling stock procurement
NAO should review the Thameslink procurement process
The procurement process completed by the Department for Transport which led to the selection of Siemens rather than Bombardier as the preferred bidder for new Thameslink rolling stock should be independently reviewed by the National Audit Office, say MPs on the Transport Select Committee.
Launching the report of a recent inquiry into this procurement, Louise Ellman, Chair of the Transport Committee said, “We could not evaluate whether the decision to choose Siemens was arrived at correctly because all of the bids were and remain confidential. We believe that in the public interest an independent review must evaluate whether this massive contract was awarded correctly on the basis of the criteria in the original invitation to tender.”
The Transport Committee has therefore written to the Comptroller and Auditor General to request he undertake this work and report to Parliament before summer 2012.
There is now widespread agreement that the criteria used in the procurement were too narrowly drawn in excluding socio-economic factors. “Both the current and previous Secretary of State have made plain they have no intention of starting the process again because of the delays they consider this will lead to,” said Louise Ellman.
MPs also concluded:
- Siemens’ A+ credit rating almost certainly made a significant contribution to its success in winning the Thameslink procurement and that the bundling of train manufacture and financing together in large procurement exercises will skew the market towards larger multinational firms, possibly at the expense of excellence in train design and domestic manufacturing.
- The government should clarify whether the medium term procurement plans mentioned in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement include a plan for rolling stock.
- The Government must do more to ensure that UK-based companies in, or supplying, the train building sector enjoy a steadier flow of business opportunities including new projects before the next major train procurement.
“We support the Government's intention to place a sharper focus on the UK's strategic interest in major public procurements and must hope that this new approach to procurement does not come too late for the Bombardier plant in Derby. It will be crucial for the Government to work closely UK train makers so that together they can develop a financial partnership that will offer good value to the taxpayer whilst promoting long-term best value.” added Louise Ellman.
FURTHER INFORMATION:
Mrs Louise Ellman (Labour/Co-operative, Liverpool Riverside) (Chair); Steve Baker (Conservative, Wycombe); Jim Dobbin (Labour/Co-operative, Heywood and Middleton); Mr Tom Harris (Labour, Glasgow South); Julie Hilling (Labour, Bolton West); Kwasi Kwarteng (Conservative, Spelthorne); Mr John Leech (Liberal Democrat, Manchester Withington); Paul Maynard (Conservative, Blackpool North and Cleveleys); Iain Stewart (Conservative, Milton Keynes South); Graham Stringer (Labour, Blackley and Broughton); Julian Sturdy (Conservative, York Outer).
Specific Committee Information: transcom@parliament.uk 020 7219 6263/3266
Media Information: Hannah Pearce pearcehm@parliament.uk 020 7219 8430
Committee Website: www.parliament.uk/transcom
Watch committees and parliamentary debates online: www.parliamentlive.tv
Publications / Reports / Reference Material: Copies of all select committee reports are available from the Parliamentary Bookshop (12 Bridge St, Westminster, 020 7219 3890) or the Stationery Office (0845 7023474). Committee reports, press releases, evidence transcripts, Bills; research papers, a directory of MPs, plus Hansard (from 8am daily) and much more, can be found on www.parliament.uk

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