Government urged to launch public inquiry into P&O scandal
The government has been urged to launch a public inquiry into the P&O scandal, during which almost 800 workers were made redundant.
The Liberal Democrats have written to the cabinet secretary Simon Case calling for immediate action so “families can get the answers they deserve”, after hundreds of people lost their jobs and were plunged into uncertainty.
This comes after the Dubai-based company announced the redundancies through a pre-recorded video message, before announcing it was employing foreign workers on less than minimum wage.
While the government said it was preparing to tighten up maritime employment laws, transport secretary Grant Shapps said on Wednesday: “The government are not in a position to take court action”, against P&O, as unions accused it of letting P&O “get away with it”.
In a letter from the Lib Dems’ Alistair Carmichael MP he said the saga “risks undermining working conditions of all UK seafarers”, and that an “independent public inquiry is now necessary in order to understand how events were allowed to develop to this point.
He added that law-changes cannot “substitute for accountability for action – or inaction – in the past”, and that an enquiry should “have the power to summon witnesses and require them to give evidence under oath”, including ministers and P&O officials.
Carmichael MP added that “P&O has been like a cowboy operator, accountable to nobody but itself.”
Labour declined to comment on the call, saying its shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh was in Hull, and the party’s focus was on accountability over the saga.
A Department for Transport spokesperson “categorically” denied claims that it was told of the plans to sack employees last November. These claims, it said, were “falsely” made in the letter by Carmichael, and by P&O at a recent Transport Select Committee.
“We are clamping down on companies, like P&O, which brazenly mistreat staff in this way. This week, we announced nine new measures to protect seafarers, and P&O’s criminal actions are rightly being investigated by the Insolvency Service.”