Ministers in trouble north and south of the border


Transport secretary Chris Grayling has faced calls for his resignation from within his own party after a leaked letter showed he once opposed devolution of suburban rail routes as he wanted to keep them out of ‘the clutches of a Labour mayor’.

The news comes as the transport secretary blocked a long-awaited move to hand control of Southeastern commuter services to City Hall and Transport for London.

Chris Grayling under fire from all sides

Mr Grayling claimed he wanted to avoid major reorganisation but was later embarrassed by a leaked letter to former London mayor Boris Johnson in 2013 opposing the idea of devolution ‘not because I have any fears over the immediate future, but because I would like to keep suburban rail out of the clutches of any future Labour mayor’.

Former Conservative minister Bob Neill called for Mr Grayling’s resignation saying it appeared as if he made the recent devolution decision based on ‘irrational political prejudice’.

Theresa May’s spokesman told the Guardian that the PM had ‘absolute faith in the secretary of state and the work he is doing’.

Tom Watson MP, deputy leader of the Labour Party, said: 'This is a disgraceful revelation that shows the Tories put party politics before rail passengers and it will leave commuters worse off.

'Labour’s Mayor of London put forward a plan which would see commuters enjoy a better service and frozen fares. We now see the Tories have blocked this progress for their own narrow political interest.'

Meanwhile under fire Scottish transport minister Humza Yousaf has been caught driving a friend’s car without the proper insurance.

Mr Yousaf has been under pressure in recent weeks following the performance of ScotRail since Abellio took over the contract last year. Opponents have also mocked him after he said he was ‘not an expert’ on transport.

Mr Yousaf said the recent incident was an ‘honest mistake’ and that he would admit the offence accept any penalty, and had ‘taken immediate steps to update my insurance cover’.

It is understood he was sharing the driving of a journey with his friend when he was pulled over during a routine stop. He told newspapers there was ‘nothing wrong with the car, no lights out, I wasn't speeding, there was no accident’.

Mr Yousaf said he later discovered that following the break-up of his marriage, the ownership of the couple’s car was transferred but he had not yet become the main policy holder, which could have enabled him to drive other vehicles.

He told the BBC: ‘I believed I was in possession of fully comprehensive insurance, not just for my own car, and as such that I was insured to drive vehicles other than my own.

‘If I had had even the slightest doubt about my insurance I would not have driven the car. However I remained insured to drive my own car at all times throughout.’

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