Boris Johnson has backed Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ call for chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite to quit over “breathtaking” comments about the company “knowingly breaking the law”
Boris Johnson believes P&O Ferries boss Peter Hebblethwaite should quit after “brazen” comments about the company “knowingly breaking the law”, No10 has confirmed.
It comes after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps vented fury over the ferry giant boss admitting to MPs the company broke employment law when it sacked 800 workers without notice.
The Transport Secretary told Sky News: “I thought what the boss of P&O said yesterday about knowingly breaking the law was brazen and breathtaking, and showed incredible arrogance.
“I cannot believe that he can stay in that role having admitted to deliberately go out and use a loophole – well, break the law, but also use a loophole.”
Pressed on whether that meant he was calling for Mr Hebblethwaite to resign “right now”, he said: “Yes.”
Now, Boris Johnson has backed calls for the P&O boss to go.
Asked if the Prime Minister supported Mr Shapps, a No 10 spokesman said: “Yes.”
It comes after the company’s chief exec told MPs the firm took a conscious decision not to consult.
“There’s absolutely no doubt we were required to consult with the unions,” he said before a Commons committee. “We chose not to do so.”
He said they made the decision not to consult unions because they believed “no union would accept” what they were proposing – and that to comply with the law and undergo the process would have been a “sham.”
Mr Shapps, who said he discovered the company’s plan on the day the plan was announced, also said new laws which will force the company to pay workers minimum wage will be introduced next week as he condemned P&O for “evilly exploiting” loopholes.
The minister told BBC Breakfast that maritime law was “very, very complex” but that he was preparing a package of “about eight” different measures to bring to Parliament.
He said he had spoken to Labour’s Louise Haigh, his counterpart, and believed there was “very, very broad parliamentary agreement” that new legislation was needed.
“There are a whole series of different things that we need to do because of the complexity of maritime law. There’s not a single process but we’ll pass different types of legislation.”
“I just want to be completely straight with your question, P&O will need to re-employ people on the proper salaries,” he said, confirming this would mean national minimum wage.
“We’re simply going to make sure that these loopholes that they’ve very, very creatively, and rather evilly exploited, are closed in lots of different ways so they can’t find a way round them.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This is a watershed moment for the UK shipping industry and for workers’ rights in Britain.
“Under no circumstances can P&O be allowed to get away with its scandalous treatment of staff.
“Its owner must be given pariah status and lose all its government shipping and freeport contracts with immediate effect until workers are reinstated.”