Baroness Chapman calls for a review of the Teesworks deals in the House of Lords

There have been cross-party calls for a full investigation by the National Audit Office (NAO) into the management of Teesworks Freeport on Teesside, with Lisa Nandy, the Labor Party’s shadow community secretary, and Ben Houchen, the Conservative Mayor of Tees Valley, both backing it.

Colleagues in the House of Lords urged the Government to proceed with reviewing the Freeport site, which once housed the Teesside Steelworks.

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Communities Secretary Baroness Scott von Bybrook said “no one is stopping a full review” by the NAO after colleagues urged the government to use its powers to initiate one.

She added that her department saw “no evidence of corruption, wrongdoing or illegality” in the administration of the site.

Lady Scott told colleagues: “The department has seen no evidence of corruption, wrongdoing or illegality within South Tees Development Corporation.”

“The Mayor and Combined Authority are working tirelessly to enhance the Teesside area, including supporting economic growth and creating quality jobs.

“Private sector investment and a joint venture have always been a key part of the business model for this site and the 2022 National Audit Office review found that government funds were used as intended.”

Liberal Democrat MP Lord Scriven urged ministers to agree to a full inquiry as soon as possible.

The former leader of Sheffield City Council said: “The Mayor of Tees Valley said yesterday he had no objection to the National Audit Office carrying out a full audit, which must be done at the Government’s instigation.

“So what is stopping the government from agreeing to implement Section 63D of the National Audit Act, which allows for a full audit by the National Audit Office to examine whether taxpayers are being short-changed by excessive profits going to a private company come?”

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Lady Scott told her colleagues: ‘No one stops a full review when they need to. But what is important is that we have millions of pounds of private sector investment in an area that desperately needs it to create jobs for the people of Teesside.

“It’s a level up. That’s the important thing about it.”

Darlington Labor MP Baroness Chapman also urged ministers to start the review as soon as possible, claiming that uncertainty about the site “will harm future investment in Teesside”.

The former Darlington MP told his colleagues: “The Mayor has said he wants an inquiry. There are clearly voices in this room calling for an investigation. I haven’t heard anyone here or in Teesside oppose an inquiry.

“It is important that this happens quickly and it should be the most comprehensive type of investigation that I believe the NAO can offer in order to regain the confidence that we really need to enable more investment in the Tees Valley.”

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Labor shadow secretary Ms Nandy wrote to the NAO on Monday, urging them to open the inquiry. She claimed there were “very serious issues regarding the use of public funds” at the site.

Tory Mayor Houchen said such a review would “restore confidence in the government’s professionalism, integrity and objectives” and added that concerns about oversight of the Teesworks website were “increasingly becoming a political pawn”. Baroness Chapman calls for a review of the Teesworks deals in the House of Lords

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