Secrecy around the 4,500-acre Teesworks site is a disease which is threatening a once in a lifetime opportunity for the people of Teesside, said Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham in parliament this evening as he repeated calls for a fully independent investigation into the management of the site.
Alex, who alongside Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald has been consistent in calling for openness around the decision-making process that allowed ownership of 90% of the Teesworks site to be transferred to two businessmen, used today’s Opposition Day Debate into Teesworks to query why the Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, was pressing ahead an inquiry team which he has chosen personally rather than one led by the National Audit Office (NAO).
Despite cross-party agreement – including the Conservative Tees Valley Mayor – for an independent investigation led by the NAO, Gove rejected this in favour of appointing his own inquiry.
During his speech Alex also raised questions about why the Tees Valley Mayor “took on the might” of the Thai banks who owned the old SSI steelworks site, but wouldn’t take similar action against two businessmen, and about the whereabouts of the scrap metal alleged to have been removed from the site.
Independent investigation is needed
All these legitimate questions and concerns could be answered in a fully independent investigation, the Stockton North MP said.
“Secrecy is a disease that is threatening the opportunities that Teesworks can bring to our area and people, and it is a disease which is getting worse as a result of the Levelling Up Secretary’s refusal to launch a comprehensive, independent investigation.
“Ever since 90% of the ownership of the site was transferred to two businessmen without any public consultation or openness, questions have been rightly asked about the decision-making process. Despite attempts by the Tees Valley Mayor and his supporters these concerns have only grown in scope – with more questions emerging as interest grows.
“All these concerns can be given proper scrutiny in the cold light of day. An independent investigation would do that and the people of Teesside have the right to know what’s going on. Even the Conservative Tees Valley Mayor is supportive of such a move so it begs the question: what is Michael Gove afraid of?”
A clip of Alex’s speech can be found below.