The Dubai-based owner of P&O Ferry has lost its status as a formal partner in one of the government’s largest freeport projects, following widespread public outcry over the firing of 800 workers without notice last month.
Ministers have confirmed that DP World, the Emirates logistics giant behind P&O, no longer has a central role as a “partner” in Solant Freeport after the UK commercial director resigned from the scheme’s board last week.
This comes after a question at Lord’s from Green Party peer Natalie Bennett, who asked the government what plans were being made to withdraw a Freeport deal as a result of the dismissal.
Speaking on behalf of the government, Leveling Up Minister Stephen Greenhall responded on Wednesday night: “On March 28, 2022, DP resigned from the World Solvent Freeport Board and is no longer a partner in the Freeport Consortium.”
The government is under intense pressure to manage its employment rights and DP World’s role in UK infrastructure after P&O Ferry fired 800 crew members without consultation last month. The firm’s boss admitted to MPs that the company had violated the law by giving notice because “no union could accept our offer”.
It was reported last month that at least 50 million UK taxpayers are in line to benefit from tax support as part of a key role in DP World Solant and Thames Freeport, prompting Labor leader Carr Sturmer to question the government’s priorities in Parliament. .
Funding of m 25m per freeport, which is still subject to approval, is expected to be paid to a major local authority responsible for each of the 12 special tax and customs zones across the UK and is expected to be spent for the benefit of the entire freeport area.
DP World Hall is a part of Solant Freeport, the operator of the freight container terminal at Southampton Port. However, it is increasingly involved as a partner in the Thames scheme, where it owns and operates the London Gateway Port and Logistics Park, which was designated one of the government’s freeport tax sites last year.
Greenhall suggested to Lord’s that the company still has a role to play as a partner in the Thames project. “As investors in Thames Freeport, the government is working to determine if DP World or P&O ferrymasters are violating any of their requirements,” he told Bennett.
Last week, DP World’s UK Commercial Director, Art Hill Reese Lambers, among 11 members of the Solant Freeport Board, resigned from the Solant Freeport Board amid local pressure, including Portsmouth Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson.
However, details of the company’s role as a partner were not immediately clear. Alan Whitehead, Southampton Test’s Labor MP, whose constituency includes Freeport, said it was appropriate that DP World no longer had a formal role in the steering body due to its track record of employment rights.
“It simply came to our notice then. I don’t think it’s just a director’s resignation, the Freeport Consortium has decided it and of course I support it, “he said.
DP World is still an integral part of Solant Freeport as Southampton Port operator, the second largest container terminal in the UK. Across a wide area, including most cities in Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, Solant Freeport is expected to create 32,000 jobs, adding £ 3.6bn to the UK economy through increased international trade.
“They are not going to run away from the port or anything else, they will continue to operate the container terminal. But Freeport developed without their lead involvement. Among other things, it is a good guarantee that Freeport’s terms are likely to be better respected, “said Whitehead.
The government added last week that DP World UK chief executive Ernest Schulz was no longer part of the government’s post-Brexit trade advisory group, which was set up to support global business opportunities.