On 22nd March 2022 the Archbishop of Canterbury responded to a statement by the Government on the behaviour of P&O Ferries towards its workers. The Archbishop raised three points relating to reporting to Parliament on progress of talks, the wages of P&O staff, and the security of services in British waters.
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, it seems that there is a lack of clarity about what is going to happen. I need to declare an interest, as Dover falls within the diocese that I serve, and economic effects in Dover affect the finances of the diocese of Canterbury.
There seems to be a lack of clarity in what the Government are saying. First, we need to be assured not just that letters will be written to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, useful as they will be, but that there will be a further Statement to your Lordships’ House setting out the results of the inquiries that the Government are making legally. Can the Minister assure us that that will be done, and at what point?
Secondly, there certainly seems to be a possibility of very sharp cuts in wages paid to the crews of these ships. Can we be assured that they will fall no further than the national minimum wage in this country? If the law does not permit that, can the law be changed?
Thirdly, in the United States, questions of security and national interest ensure that United States ships on crucial routes are flagged in the United States and crewed by United States citizens. Will be the Government undertake to look at the security implications of crucial short crossings across the channel being crewed by those from all over the world rather than those who are committed to the interests of this country?
Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con): I thank the most reverend Primate for his concern and intervention in this really important topic. We will return to the House and make further Statements. I know that colleagues from BEIS will look at the employment law elements of this issue, and I believe that there is a Question in your Lordships’ House tomorrow, should he wish to press this further.
On the wages of the crew, there are various media reports flying around—again, we do not have confirmation as to what will happen about the wages there. If they are operating on domestic routes within territorial waters, such as from Larne to Cairnryan, they will receive at least the national minimum wage. It is the case—if there is possibly a silver lining for some of those people who may well be losing their jobs—that they will receive six months’ pay plus 2.5 weeks for each year of service. So I am very much hoping that for those people we will be able to fire up the DWP services and work with local employers, and they will also have what is well above a statutory settlement as a result of their redundancy.
The most reverend Primate asked about the security of really important routes, and I recognise that and will take it back to the Maritime Minister and ask him to consider it.