P&O owner faces calls to be excluded from Wales freeport after jobs axe

P&O Ferries attracted outrage after sacking 800 UK workers

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Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi has said the Government should not allow P&O Ferries anywhere near a planned low-tax freeport in Wales.

Speaking to ministers, Ms Antoniazzi called for a guarantee that the parent company of P&O Ferries, DP World, would be excluded from any future freeports as the Government said an announcement on Wales’ first freeport would be made “imminently”.

DP World runs two of the largest shipping terminals in the UK at London Gateway and Southampton, both of which were among locations chosen as the first freeports in England.

P&O Ferries boat
P&O Ferries boat

News about the low-tax trade zone comes after “long-running” negotiations between the Welsh and UK Governments.

Ms Antoniazzi told MPs: “The Secretary of State extols the virtues of a freeport in Wales.

“But can he assure the House that he will not allow DP World, responsible for the shameful sacking of 800 P&O workers, anywhere near the construction or operation of any freeport in the United Kingdom?”

Wales Secretary Simon Hart replied: “I hope that the comments which have been made by the Transport Secretary and others actually will reassure her that we are deeply disturbed by the way that that action has been taken.”

He added: “It has been referred to the insolvency service as she knows. If there are transgressions which are demonstrable in that process then that could lead to actual criminal prosecutions.

“So I can give her the assurance that she needs as far as freeports in Wales are concerned.”

Conservative MPs made several attempts to lobby for Ynys Mon (Anglesey), the constituency of their colleague Virginia Crosbie, to be the site of the first Welsh freeport.

Mark Fletcher (Bolsover) asked: “Does he agree that if the Welsh Government really cared about the people of Ynys Mon they would support our efforts to deliver a freeport to bring more jobs and investment to the island?”

Mr Hart replied that the Government was expecting to receive a series of “very enthusiastic bids into this scheme once it is launched”, adding: “I think we can describe that announcement as imminent.”

Earlier today, Boris Johnson said it appears to him that P&O Ferries has “broken the law” over the controversial sacking of 800 workers.

He told the Commons that the Government will be “taking action”, and encouraged workers to do the same.

Peter Hebblethwaite, the company’s chief executive issued an apology for the impact of the decision to sack the staff without notice.

Peter Hebblethwaite said he understood the “anger and shock” about the loss of jobs.