shapps-says-p&o-ferries-boss-‘will-have-to-go’

Shapps says P&O Ferries boss ‘will have to go’

The embattled boss of P&O Ferries “will have to go”, the transport secretary has told MPs.

Grant Shapps said it is “completely unsustainable” that Peter Hebblethwaite is still the company’s chief executive after nearly 800 workers were sacked without notice in March.

Mr Shapps told the Commons’ transport select committee: “He will have to go.”

Mr Hebblethwaite admitted to a joint hearing of the Commons’ business and transport committees last month that P&O Ferries broke the law by not consulting with trade unions before implementing the decision.

On Tuesday, the ferry company resumed cross-Channel sailings for the first time since the sackings, with the vessel Spirit Of Britain departing Dover for Calais just after 11pm with freight.

Spirit Of Britain had been detained by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) on 12 April due to safety issues, but was cleared to sail on Friday.

Passenger services are expected to resume early next week.

Protesters outside the P&O building at the Port of Hull, East Yorkshire, after P&O Ferries suspended sailings and handed 800 workers severance notices

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The sackings of nearly 800 workers prompted protests in March

Mr Shapps also said that P&O Ferries should repay £11m of furlough money it claimed from the taxpayer during the coronavirus pandemic, adding that the company “will have to pay the minimum wage” when new legislation is introduced.

On Tuesday, P&O ship European Causeway lost power and ended up adrift five miles off the coast of Northern Ireland for more than an hour.

A spokesman for P&O Ferries said the issue had been temporary and the European Causeway had travelled to Larne “under its own propulsion”.

On Wednesday, the MCA said: “Our surveyors are carrying out a full inspection of P&O Ferries vessel European Causeway. This follows the mechanical failure while it was at sea yesterday.

“It is important to note that this does not mean the ferry is under detention, but will be inspected before it returns to full service.

“There are no further inspections of P&O Ferries at the moment but we will reinspect when requested by P&O Ferries.”

Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Mick Lynch called for government to “step in now and take over the running of all P&O vessels”.