P&O Ferries could be prosecuted over the sacking of 800 seafarers

Business minister Paul Scully warned the company would have had to have notified the Secretary of State before the sackings

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Business minister Paul Scully has warned P&O Ferris could face prosecution if they are considered to have broken the law over the sacking of 800 seafarers.

Mr Scully said: “If they have flouted the notification law where they are supposed to tell the Secretary of State when they are going to make more than a hundred people redundant, then there are criminal sanctions involved in that, including an unlimited fine.

“We have reserved the right to approach the prosecuting authorities should that be the right thing to do.”

Mr Scully said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was reviewing all Government contracts and dealings with the company and its owners, DP World.

“They need to realise that the relationship between the companies and the Government has changed as a result of their absolutely callous (conduct),” he said.

Workers on the P&O ferry the Pride of Kent as it remains moored at the Port of Dover in Kent after P&O Ferries suspended sailings and handed 800 seafarers immediate severance notices. Picture date: Friday March 18, 2022.
Workers on the P&O ferry the Pride of Kent as it remains moored at the Port of Dover in Kent after P&O Ferries suspended sailings and handed 800 seafarers immediate severance notices. Picture date: Friday March 18, 2022.

Asked if that could include a £25 million subsidy to DP World to help develop London Gateway as a freeport, Mr Scully told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: “We will look into all of these things as part of this.”

The UK has an international responsibility to not excuse the behaviour of P&O Ferries, ministers have been told.

Lorries waiting to check in at the Port of Dover in Kent as P&O ferry services have suspended sailings ahead of a "major announcement" but insisted it is "not going into liquidation". Picture date: Thursday March 17, 2022.
Lorries waiting to check in at the Port of Dover in Kent as P&O ferry services have suspended sailings ahead of a "major announcement" but insisted it is "not going into liquidation". Picture date: Thursday March 17, 2022.

Labour MP John McDonnell said: “We are not dealing with a normal company. This is a state company. It is effectively owned by the Dubai state.

“We have a responsibility in international relations that we will not tolerate this behaviour but also I think we have an international irresponsibility to work with others across Europe and elsewhere to make sure this is not just this Government, our Government making this point.

“I think this has got to be made by other governments as well working with us, all of those who want to uphold basic labour standards.”

DUP MP Ian Paisley (North Antrim) said: “There’s a great temptation I think for transference of guilt this evening. People here want to blame the Government, others want to blame the unions.

“That allows P&O to get off in the dark. We cannot allow that to happen, let’s keep the focus on this company and let’s keep the punishment where it needs to be.”