Grant Shapps asked DP World to keep 'us' informed of any P&O 'commercial decisions'

Minutes from a meeting last November show Grant Shapps asked P&O Ferries' parent company DP World to keep "us" informed of any commercial decisions they may have to make about the firm.

The Transport Select Committee released the document this afternoon, after P&O boss Peter Hebblethwaite suggested yesterday that the Transport Secretary may have been aware of the intention to cut jobs as far back as November 2021.

Yesterday, the Department for Transport strongly denied that the Minister was aware of the plans to cut jobs.

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The company sacked almost 800 staff last week and replaced its crews with cheaper agency workers last week without consulting unions. Staff are now paid an average well below minimum wage in the UK.

Peter Hebblethwaite, Chief Executive, P&O Ferries, answering questions in front of the Transport Committee and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee

According to the recording of the meeting between Mr Shapps and His Excellency Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and CEO of DP World in Dubai, Mr Shapps sad: "I’m aware of the issues relating to P&O. I recognise you will need to make commercial decisions, but please do keep us informed."

The comments were part of a wider conversation, in which Sultan Bin Sulayem said: "As we recover we can reinvest in the UK.

"We make a significant amount of income from the passenger side of our business (even though it only makes up c.30 per cent of total business), because the margins are so tight on the cargo side."

Earlier today, Mr Shapps called for Mr Hebblethwaite to lose his job after his “brazen” comments to MPs on the Transport and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committees, where he admitted breaking employment law over the sacking of hundreds of workers without notice.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Mr Shapps promised to “make sure the laws are changed to stop them using loopholes like flagging their ships in Cyprus to avoid and evade British law and not give notice of what they were doing, and not talk to the workers and the unions”.

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 means he is calling for Mr Hebblethwaite to resign “right now”, he said: “Yes.”

Asked later if the Prime Minister supports the call for Mr Hebblethwaite to quit, a No 10 spokesman said: “Yes.”