It was announced that the UK Government will postpone elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly yet again.
The postponement of these elections means that we avoid having to undertake direct rule. If we ever reach the point of Direct Rule it will be a failure of this Government to get all parties involved around the table.
I noted in my question that way we overcome this impasse last time was by dedicated, and personal intervention, by the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach.
The Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling MP, has just had to settle a court dispute with the Channel Tunnel company as he did not fulfil his legal duties when signing the doomed contract with Seaborne Freight – the ferry company with no ferries.
Labour secured an urgent question to pull the Secretary of State before the House to answer why he has cost taxpayers £33million. What we got instead was the Secretary of State for Health. Yes, the minister responsible for the NHS in England was answering questions on a failing by the minister responsible for ferries. In other words, the Secretary of State for Transport was running away from his mistakes.
I asked the Minister if at any point the Secretary of State was informed that his decision could lead to a legal challenge from the Channel Tunnel company. No answer was forthcoming.
Wasting public funds in such a reckless way is shameful and the Secretary of State should do the right thing and resign.
The National Audit Office (NAO) has published its report into the part-privatisation of our probation services and it makes for damning reading.
Chris Grayling – the current Secretary of State for Transport who just had to pay £33million of taxpayers money in compensation to a private firm after he commissioned a ferry service to a company with no boats – was the mastermind behind this decision.
The report is clear that public money has been wasted and rehabilitation of offenders has been undermined. I wanted the Prisons Minister to state who is responsible and what will be done to address these massive failings in government.
The rise in violent crime, and knife crime, across the UK is deeply worrying. Young people are dying on our streets due to gang violence and the increased number of people feeling they must carry an offensive weapon.
When we saw a rise in knife crime in 2009 I took immediate action as the Counter-Terrorism and Police Minister. We appointed the Chief Constable of Warwickshire Police to head up a cross-departmental taskforce. This focused minds and ensured that we had a laser focused strategy.
The Secretary of State spent most of today saying that it was everyone’s responsibility to take action, whilst simultaneously ensuring that the blame for this did not rest at his, and his government’s feet. Let’s be clear, a reduction of over 20,000 police officers since 2010, painful cuts to local councils and chronic under-funding of education has laid the foundations for this crisis.
Action needs to be taken now that empowers our police to take tough action on those harming our communities and gives local authorities the resources they need to prevent gang violence from even beginning.