Chris Grayling criticised over Qatar trip as rail fare rise prompts protests – Politics live

Chris Grayling criticised over Qatar trip as rail fare rise prompts protests – Politics live

Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT rail union, has put out this statement about Chris Grayling, the transport secretary.

Chris Grayling knew that the fares story would be top of the news agenda today but instead of being available to defend his government’s great rail rip-off he booked himself a trip to the Qatari sunshine.

While millions of passengers are taking a financial hit as they battle their way back to work in the cold and the rain today they will draw their own conclusions from the transport secretary’s decision to book himself a trip to the desert.

Here is Jeremy Cliffe, the Economist’s Berlin bureau chief, on rail prices in Britain.

An annual London-Peterborough season ticket now costs £7,864. In Germany you can buy an annual BahnCard 100, providing travel on *every train in the country*, for less than half that (€4,270, or £3,797).

How much of your salary goes on #railfare travel? An average 30 mile commute in the UK can be five times higher than on the continent

When he was chancellor George Osborne frequently clashed with Theresa May, the then home secretary, over her hardline approach to immigration. He was particularly sceptical about including foreign students in the immigration statistics. In today’s editorial, Osborne’s Evening Standard welcomes hints that May is going to be forced to back down on this.

Our editorial @EveningStandard on the looming government u-turn on student immigration

Every effort to get the students out of the net migration target — by David Cameron in the last government and by most of the current cabinet — has been single-handedly blocked by Theresa May. As home secretary and as prime minister she insisted students should be in the official numbers because, the Home Office claimed, 100,000 of them overstayed. Last year it emerged that this number was completely bogus — fewer than 5,000 do, one 20th of the estimate that drove government policy. Still Downing Street refused to budge.

So why might they back down now? Credit must go in part to the subversive operations of various ministers. The home secretary, Amber Rudd, quietly commissioned rational advice on the economic benefits of international students and shifted her department’s mindset. Meanwhile, Jo Johnson, the effective universities minister, has used every opportunity to promote our higher education institutions abroad. But in this hung parliament it’s not the government that dictates policy, it’s the House of Commons — as MPs are starting to realise. That’s why, last August, this paper said, “let’s hope someone puts down an amendment in parliament to remove students from migration numbers… [for] it will surely be carried”.

This is Stefaan De Rynck, senior adviser to Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, responding to what David Davis, the Brexit secretary, is saying in his Telegraph article. (See 9.31am.)

Quote April EUCO #Brexit guidelines: welcomes the recognition by the British Government that the four freedoms of the Single Market are indivisible and that there can be no “cherry picking”. The Union will preserve its autonomy as regards its decision-making.

Labour and the Lib Dems have condemned Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, for going to Qatar on a day when he could, and arguably should, have been on the Today programme defending the annual rail fair increases. Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, said:

The secretary of state for transport’s failure to publicly explain to rail passengers why they are being hit with crushing fare increases today smacks of a man running scared. Chris Grayling won’t defend his multi-million pound bailout of Stagecoach on the East Coast line because he can’t.

Passengers and taxpayers deserve better than a failing transport secretary who refuses to defend his track record.

After great rail fares rally at Kings X, and then meeting brilliant campaigners at Stevenage, now en route to Leeds only for our Virgin train to breakdown with complete loss of power just like this awful Tory government!

My day of campaigning has been interrupted by a broken down train on the recently bailed-out Virgin East Coast on the same day fares are hiked by 3.6%. Let’s take our railway back into public ownership!

Rail passengers are shivering on platforms angered by the biggest fare increase in years while Chris Grayling is off globetrotting.

It’s very difficult to see what useful function he can perform in Qatar and Turkey that our excellent trade officials could not.

I’m back from the Number 10 lobby briefing. Here are the key points.

Chris Grayling is working hard and doing a good job as transport secretary.

Sir Vince Cable, the Lib Dem leader, is opposed to Brexit. But, in an interview with LBC, he claimed that he had an “open mind” and that he could be persuaded to support it if Theresa May secured a fantastic Brexit deal. When it was put to him that he was just opposing Brexit and the will of the people, he replied:

If Brexit is the way it’s now looking, I think we should be aiming to stop it, but I have an open mind … We would stay within the European Union. We haven’t left it yet, but it’s possible that Theresa May could produce a miracle and we could have some really good outcome and people would be positive about it but I’m sceptical we’ll get there.

Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, was on the Today programme earlier talking about Labour’s plans for rail. Here are the main points he made.

You’ve got to remember, through British Rail there was a remarkable achievement. [It was] so derided and abused, when we have the curly-lip sandwiches stories and all the rest of it. But that was actually 3% more efficient in its last 20 years than we’ve had under privatisation, with little or no investment, because it was a declining industry and the investment didn’t go in. If British Rail had half the investment that’s gone in under privatisation, we’d have had a gold standard railway.

No, it’s not about British Rail. It’s about a new era of railways that delivers the very, very best for the British people.

You pay for that by not wasting money in the franchising system itself, which is immensely costly for the taxpayer and for the TOCs, the train operating companies, and who pays for that ultimately? The passengers.

You reduce that cost. You take out this terrible duplication, you’ve seen it over the last couple of days, endless CEOs on massive amounts of money duplicating costs. And, lastly, [you stop] profits and dividends going out to, not only the corporate entities, but to [foreign] state-owned and controlled railways.

We have a fractured, expensive and complex system, we are wasting money in the franchising system itself, it duplicates costs … This is a nonsense, this is an absolute racket.

I think instead of being at war with the people who work in the rail industry, we should be in partnership with them to ensure that we deliver the best possible service and they want to commit to that, but what’s happening here is ideologically we’ve got a government who prefers to have battles and wars, rather than sit round a negotiating table and resolve these very, very real issues.

Here are some of the campaigners at King’s Cross station in London protesting about the annual rail fare increases.

Related: Rail bosses seek to defend UK train fare rises amid protests at stations

And here is Peter Foster, the Daily Telegraph’s Europe editor, on the David Davis article.

As you’d expect, some wishful/ambitious thinking in David Davis #brexit opener in @telegraph bit this final para seems right to me, if you define successful as “completed” and less rigidly binary in scope than Barnier pretends.

Here is Michael Russell, the Scottish government’s Brexit minister, responding to the David Davis article.

David Davis says in today’s Telegraph that he wants a relationship with the EU that “involves working together, not simply rule taking”. David, that is called “membership”

The Markit/CIPS UK Manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) showed a reading of 56.3 last month, down from 58.2 in November, the Press Association reports. Economists were expecting a figure of 57.9. A reading above 50 indicates growth.

Good morning. And Happy New Year to everyone.

MPs do not return to the Commons until next week and this morning the Westminster news machine is still warming up. Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, has been on the airwaves condemning the annual rail fare increases that come into effect today. And David Davis, the Brexit secretary, has published a long article in the Daily Telegraph (paywall) with his agenda for the year ahead.

Related: David Davis says EU cannot ‘cherrypick’ terms of free trade deal

The negotiations about the future will not be straightforward. They will generate the same public thunder and lightning that we have seen in the past year. But I believe they will be successful, because the future of the Europe continent is best served by strong and successful relationships.

The EU might work for countries who have chosen to be members, but at a time when the commission themselves say that the vast majority of future global growth will come from outside Europe, it makes sense for Britain to place itself at the cutting edge of new technologies and the regulatory regimes they will require.

The emphasis here must always be on raising standards. There is no route to prosperity in trying to become cheaper than China, or in undermining the safety standards which give confidence to British goods.

Whether it’s the prime minister’s commitments to workers rights, or Michael Gove’s determination to uphold animal welfare standards, this government believes the UK’s future lies in a race to the top in global standards.

Our approach is simple: we are looking at the full sweep of economic cooperation that currently exists and determining how that can be maintained with the minimum additional barriers or friction, while returning control to the UK Parliament.

In terms of scope, the final deal should, amongst other things, cover goods, agriculture and services, including financial services, and be supported by continued intelligent cooperation in highly-regulated areas such as transportation, energy and data.

For decades we have been happy to let European bodies carry out the assessments that ensure products like these — from cars to medical devices — are fit to go to market in the United Kingdom. Given the level of trust we place in each other’s institutions I see no reason why, with the right relationship, such mutual recognition should not continue after we leave.

But it will require the support of our regulators working together, collaborating on assessments to authorise products and sharing data on public health and safety risks.

Continue reading…

Source: Guardian Transport

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