Ex-bungling minister lands £100,000 seven-hours-per-week port firm job

Ex-transport secretary Chris Grayling lands £100,000 role working SEVEN HOURS a week for port firm despite a catalogue of bungles including handing a Brexit ferry contract to a company with no ships

  • He has been hired to advise Hutchison Ports Europe, official documents show
  • Hong Kong-owned firm owns ports including Felixstowe and Harwich in the UK
  • Job was approved after he pledged not to advise them about ‘maritime matters’ 

A former Cabinet minister lampooned for a catalogue of bungles including handing a Brexit ferry contract to a company that owned no ship has been handed a lucrative role as an adviser to a multination port firm.

Ex-transport secretary Chris Grayling will pocket a £100,000 salary for working a seven-hour week as an adviser to Hutchison Ports Europe, official documents show. 

The former senior minister took up the post at the start of September, days after quitting as a member of the Commons’ Intelligence and Security Committee following the failure of his attempt to become its chairman.

Hutchison Ports Europe owns ports including Felixstowe and Harwich and is part of Hong Kong-based CK Hutchison Holdings.

The company was founded by Li Ka-Shing, the richest man of Hong Kong, nicknamed Superman, who is worth $24.5billion (£19.9billion), according to Forbes.

He retired as chairman in 2018 and passed control to his son. It owns a vast stable of UK businesses including mobile network Three, pub chain Greene King and pharmacy company Superdrug. 

Parliament’s register of members’ financial interests show he has been hired to act as a strategic adviser until the end of August 2021.  

Assuming he works 52 weeks a year it equates to a salary of £275 per hour or just shy of £2,000 a day, on top of his £81,932 MP’s annual salary. 

When the news broke today, Labour shadow health minister Justin Madders joked: ‘Clearly not a payment by results contract.’

Ex-transport secretary Chris Grayling will pocket a £100,000 salary for working a seven-hour week as an adviser to Hutchison Ports Europe, official documents show

Banning books for prisoners

The controversial ban on parcels of books being sent to prisoners was condemned as ‘unenlightened’ when then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling introduced it in 2013.

He claimed parcels being sent into prisons had been a vehicle for ‘contraband’ and there were not enough staff to check them all properly.

Mr Grayling insisted prisoners could access books from jail libraries and could purchase more using money earned by working inside.

He was removed as Justice Secretary when the all-Tory government was formed in May this year, with Michael Gove – a former Education Secretary – taking his job.

Seaborne Freight

Mr Grayling’s decision to award Seaborne Freight a contract worth £13.8 million to run services between Ramsgate and Ostend – despite having no ships – attracted widespread criticism.

The DfT’s decision was challenged by Eurotunnel, and on Friday the Government announced it had reached an agreement worth up to £33 million with the Channel Tunnel firm.  

Rail timetable chaos

Mr Grayling faced a vote of no confidence – but survived – over Northern Rail’s chaotic timetable collapse in June. Up to 770 trains were cancelled per day.

He had rejected calls for Northern to be renationalised, although he accepted the situation experienced by passengers was ‘unacceptable’.

In a later appearance before the Commons Transport Select Committee, he raised eyebrows by insisting: ‘I don’t run the railways,’ and instead blamed Network Rail.

In a letter dated July, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments acknowledged there was a “perceived risk you would have influence across Government/Whitehall that could provide an unfair advantage” to Hutchison.

But the appointment was approved by the watchdog after the Tory MP gave a reassurance he would not advise the firm on Brexit opportunities or commercial maritime matters.

Mr Grayling was a close supporter of Theresa May, who stuck by him despite a litany of of gaffes in a wide range of offices including transport and justice secretaries and as employment minister.

The Epsom and Ewell MP, 58, resigned as transport secretary when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in July 2019, though he was likely to have been replaced.

He sparked outrage when it emerged last year he had awarded a £13.8 million contract to Seaborne Freight – a company with no ships – to mitigate the potential consequences of a no-deal Brexit. 

A total of £100 million in contracts was awarded to three companies – Brittany Ferries, DFDS and Seaborne – but they were ultimately scrapped at an estimated cost of £56.6 million after Brexit was delayed.

The DfT’s decision was challenged by Eurotunnel, and the Government was forced to make an agreement worth up to £33 million with the Channel Tunnel firm in March 2019.

But Mr Grayling, speaking at the time,  refused to resign over the seven-figure use of taxpayers money and tried to pin the blame on other Cabinet ministers.

After being accosted by reporters as he arrived in Downing Street for the weekly Cabinet meeting he claimed the decision had been taken ‘collectively’ by ministers on Department of Health advice and branded it ‘sensible’.

Asked if he felt under pressure to resign, he said: ‘I will carry on serving the Prime Minister as long as she wants me to.’

He was also criticised for the weeks of chaos following changes to train timetables in May 2018, with an investigation into the fiasco by the Office of Rail and Road finding “nobody took charge”.

He came under fire for his decision while justice secretary to part-privatise the probation service, which ended up costing the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds.

Other controversial moments include an attempt to cut legal aid to prisoners and a £6 million contract to train prison staff in Saudi Arabia despite its appalling human rights record and use of capital punishment.

He was also criticised for awarding a contract to Carillion to run prison maintenance when it was clear the firm was going bust.

He was also caught up in the Workfare scheme, under which claimants were forced to work for free or lose their benefits, and was criticised when he knocked a cyclist off his bike with a car door after complaining about cycle lanes.

Source: Read Full Article