Scott's appointment off the rails

SUFFOLK county councillor Baroness Scott of Needham Market was one of the innocent victims of the fallout from the messy resignation last year of Environment, Regions and Transport Secretary Stephen Byers.

SUFFOLK county councillor Baroness Scott of Needham Market was one of the innocent victims of the fallout from the messy resignation last year of Environment, Regions and Transport Secretary Stephen Byers.

For all his faults, Mr Byers believed in inclusive politics and saw no reason to veto the appointment of Lady Scott, a Liberal Democrat, to the board of the Strategic Rail Authority, as long as she passed the stringent requirements of candidates for public position at an interview, which she duly did.

However, the appointment was waiting to be rubber-stamped when Mr Byers decided the pressure on him following the decent into farce of his department was such that he wanted out.

In came Alistair Darling to take charge of the reformed Department of Transport, and he pushed Lady Scott's appointment to one side. After months of delay, in which it became clear that the dour Mr Darling did not want a meddlesome Lib Dem landing a sinecure on the SRA – even though she is a knowledgeable front bench spokesman in the House of Lords – the baroness withdrew her application to save any embarrassment.


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Perhaps the SRA would not have taken the illogical decision to delay the freight upgrade of the line from Harwich/Felixstowe to Nuneaton via Ely – which passes slap bang through her Needham Market county division – if Lady Scott had been allowed to put her local knowledge to some use.

"This Government has to control everything," bemoaned Lady Scott. "They're afraid of even constructive criticism."

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RYANIR has come to the rescue of travel weary journalists and party conference delegates from this region by introducing a daily direct flight from Stansted to Blackpool – at a return fare of £60, it knocks around £100 off the train fare. Flying time to the Tory Party conference this year will be just 50 minutes.

And to help promote its new low cost route from Stansted to Strasbourg, Ryanair decided to make no charge for its flights between March 17 and May 15, travellers having to pay only taxes and airport charges.

Strasbourg hosts meetings of the European Parliament every four weeks – there's a plenary session taking place this week – and no doubt a considerable number of the UK's 87 Euro MPs will have taken advantage of the offer.

Those who did would have been entitled, under European Parliament expenses regulations, to have travelled for nothing, and trousered the full £500-plus price of the Air France ticket from Gatwick to Strasbourg. Unlike Westminster, where MPs are given travel warrants, European parliamentarians have no such restrictions. They don't even need receipts,

Some years ago, Greek and Swedish MEPs were caught out flying on the cheapest advance air tickets to Brussels from Athens and Stockholm, and claiming mileage for using their cars. It was all perfectly legitimate.

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