POLITICS
23/08/2018 13:21 BST | Updated 23/08/2018 15:22 BST

Chris Grayling 'Unfit' To Be Minister, Say Labour Frontbenchers In Letter To PM

Theresa May should sack her transport secretary 'immediately', opponents urge.

Jack Taylor via Getty Images

Cabinet minister Chris Grayling is “unfit to run a government department” and should be sacked immediately, three members of the Labour frontbench have said in an extraordinary letter to the Prime Minister. 

The Transport Secretary was behind “calamitous policy decisions” in each of his three high-profile government roles and has “demonstrated a repeated failure to conduct himself in a manner befitting” a minister, it is claimed. 

Penning the letter to Theresa May, Andy McDonald, Shadow Transport Secretary, Richard Burgon, Shadow Justice Secretary and Margaret Greenwood, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, list a string of unpopular and much-criticsed decisions by Grayling and write: “The longer he is allowed to remain in post, the more damage he is able to do. We ask that you act immediately to remove him from his post.” 

The three MPs lash out at “a litany of errors and instances of poor judgement that have wrought havoc” at the Department for Transport and also lay into his past record as employment minister and justice secretary.

The letter says among Grayling’s “greatest failures” as transport secretary are cancelling the rail electrification of the Midland Mainline, TransPennine and Great Western routes, overseeing timetable chaos and fare rises of 36 percent since 2010, agreeing a bailout of Virgin/Stagecoach for the East Coast Mainline and failing to respond to an air quality crisis that contributes to 40,000 premature deaths each year. 

Grayling was among many department heads asked to make cutbacks during the era of austerity and has apologised, alongside operators, for the timetable chaos over the summer on two rail lines.

He has also refused a fares freeze, saying taxpayers who do not use rail services should not be asked to foot the bill to improve the network for those who do. 

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Chris Grayling previously held the role of justice secretary with responsibility for probation and prison services

Grayling, who oversaw budget cuts, the privatisation of the probation service and the outsourcing of prison maintenance works and facilities management to Carillion and Amey as justice secretary, is also blamed for the current prisons crisis. 

The MPs quote chief prisons’ inspector Peter Clark, whose annual report said: “It is noticeable that the huge increase in violence across the prison estate has really only taken place in the past five years, at the time when large reductions in staff numbers were taking effect. Prior to 2013, self-harm and assaults had remained at broadly static levels.”

The outsourcing of prison maintenance has led to many jails falling into a state of disrepair and squalor and the government was last month forced to end the probation service contracts two years early.

 

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letter

Grayling was also responsible as employment minister for introducing fitness to work tests, which the MPs called “cruel and shambolic”, and the Work Programme, which the Commons Public Accounts Committee found had performed so poorly “it was actually worse than the department’s own expectations of the number of people who would have found work if the programme didn’t exist”.

MPs also referenced how Grayling has been in the past been accused of misleading the public over improvements to rail services and misusing crime statistics by the UK Statistics Authority. 

The highly critical letter concludes: “It is our view that although many of these errors were caused by a general lack of competence, many are the fault of an overly dogmatic and ideological commitment to outsourcing and privatisation of services, even when there is little evidence to support such positions.

“Beyond his calamitous policy decisions, the now transport secretary has also demonstrated a repeated failure to conduct himself in a manner befitting a senior member of the Cabinet, including by promoting misleading information and an ongoing abrogation of responsibility. 

“As his track record makes clear, Mr Grayling is unfit to run a government department.”

HuffPost UK has contacted Downing Street and a spokeswoman for Grayling for comment.