Labour has accused Chris Grayling of ‘not being straight with Parliament’ in the ongoing row over the disqualification of Stagecoach from bidding for train franchises.
The Times said that statements made by the transport secretary in the Commons ‘appear to be at odds with his own department’s documentation’.
It follows a statement from the the Department for Transport (DfT) last month that it had barred major transport operator Stagecoach from bidding for the East Midlands, South Eastern and West Coast franchises on the grounds that bids were ‘non-compliant’ because they did not meet rules on pensions.
The Times said documentation it had seen from a senior DfT official signed with the authority of Mr Grayling states: ‘All bids contained some non-compliances.’
Last week. shadow rail minister Rachael Maskell asked Mr Grayling in the Commons: ‘Given that the Department [for Transport] has confirmed that all three bidders for the East Midlands franchise were non-compliant, why were only Stagecoach and Arriva disqualified from the competition?’
Mr Grayling replied: ‘Because it is not the case that all three bidders were non-compliant.’
Questioned further, he added: ‘She is incorrectly making assertions about non-compliant bids which are simply inaccurate.’
Ms Maskell told the Times: ‘Chris Grayling has once again not been straight with Parliament. Legal disclosures from his own department issued under his authority show that, in fact, all bids contained non-compliances.
‘This cavalier approach to the procurement process is wasting millions of pounds of public money. The transport secretary must urgently come to the House of Commons and correct the parliamentary record.’
The DfT pointed out that competition rules allow elements of bids that are non-compliant to be resolved.
A spokesperson said: 'Abellio submitted a compliant bid and have been awarded the East Midlands Railway franchise on the basis of clear guidance that was issued in advance of the bid process.'