Farron makes case in House for urgent debate on West Coast Mainline
Cumbrian MP and President of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron has today stood up in the House of Commons to make his case for an Emergency Debate on the West Coast Main Line franchise. Emergency Debates are usually granted sparingly and for major events like phone hacking.
Following the announcement last month that the decision had been made to award the West Coast Main Line franchise to First Group over Virgin, Tim wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, to ask for the opportunity to make his case for an Emergency Debate. This evening at 5.56pm Tim made his case to the House of Commons, claiming that the with the announcement occurring during the summer recess, while MPs were in their constituencies and not in Parliament, there has not been the opportunity for full and proper scrutiny of the process and decision.
Tim has previously called for Virgin Trains loss of the West Coast Main Line to be debated in Parliament, after a petition urging the Government reconsider the decision gained over 165,000 signatures but he has today stepped up his campaign.
Virgin Trains was stripped of the contract to run trains between London and Glasgow, which it has operated since 1997, last week when the Government awarded the franchise to FirstGroup. The contract was supposed to be signed this week but the delay has allowed Tim to ask for an 11th hour debate in parliament to allow MP's to hold the government to account.
An urgent debate is called at short notice in the House of Commons on a subject of a "specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration". An MP may apply to the Speaker for an emergency debate under the rules of Standing Order No. 24. The Speaker usually grants no more than one or two a year and limits them to matters of national importance. They take place within 24 hours of being granted.
Commenting this afternoon, Tim said: "Announcing the franchise decision in the recess when MPs are not in Westminster and not able to properly hold the Government to account is unfair and unacceptable. There is widespread public support as well as support amongst MPs for a full debate on this issue and it is incredibly important that a decision on this scale is subject to proper scrutiny."