Louise Haigh – 2022 Speech on P&O Ferries

The speech made by Louise Haigh, the Shadow Transport Secretary, in the House of Commons on 28 March 2022.

I thank the Minister for that response. As he said, on Thursday the chief executive of P&O Ferries made a mockery of the rule of law in this country. As a result, seven of P&O’s eight ferries are now stuck in port, and on Saturday the European Causeway—the only passenger ship in Europe to be prevented from sailing over safety concerns—was seized.

P&O Ferries must face the most serious consequences for its misconduct. I know that the Minister and the Secretary of State feel the same way, and I appreciate the contact they have made with the Opposition and trade unions, but every available tool at the Government’s disposal must now be used to force P&O Ferries to reinstate workers on the previous terms and conditions.

Will the Minister provide some urgent clarity? First, the Prime Minister said very clearly on Wednesday:

“we are taking legal action…against the company concerned”.—[Official Report, 23 March 2022; Vol. 711, c. 326.]

So has the Secretary of State given his direction to prosecute? If not, why not?

Secondly, given that the chief executive has shown no respect for the law, will the Secretary of State seek his removal under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986, and the removal of all those who authorised this unlawful action?

Thirdly, the Secretary of State has said he will review contracts, but livelihoods are on the line now, so will he suspend all contracts and licences of P&O and DP World today? Why is DP World still listed as a member of the Government’s trade advisory group?

Finally, time is running out. The deadline set by P&O for this Thursday for workers to agree severance amounts to extortion and has no legal basis. What powers do the Government have to extend that unlawful deadline? As the Minister said, workers must be reinstated on the same terms as before. Many are paid above the minimum wage, so will he commit to working with the unions and all ferry companies to agree a binding framework that will prevent a race to the bottom to the lowest international standards?

I know the House agrees that we must send a clear message that rogue employers cannot get away with trampling over the laws of this country. It is time to throw the book at P&O and save this loyal workforce.