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International Roll-on Roll-off Ferry Services

Volume 682: debated on Thursday 22 October 2020

What assessment he has made of the future viability of international roll-on roll-off ferry services from the UK. (907933)

A mid-year financial health assessment of carriers has provided assurances for the continued flow of freight on international roll on, roll off services.

I thank the Secretary of State and the Minister for their helpful engagement with me over P&O ferries threatening to scrap the Hull to Zeebrugge route. International shipping routes are critical to our economic future yet P&O is threatening to walk away. Does the Minister agree that the time has now come for the company to be told to invest in our area, step up and, instead of paying millions to its Dubai owners, put something into our local economy?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for our recent meeting. He is a powerful advocate for his area, its identity and its economic vitality. Although these are commercial decisions, I want to see a commitment from all operators to the UK workforce and the coastal communities for whom these routes are so important.

We wish my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner) well. There was a fire on the Pride of Hull last night, but all hands are safe.

Brexit talks between the Prime Minister and the maritime sector this week have been poorly received and it is a failure of statecraft that the Department has had to award £77 million worth of contracts to secure vital medicine in the event of no deal. To be fair to the Secretary of State—and I am fair to him—at least he awarded these ferry contracts to companies that actually own some ships this time. What undertakings has the Minister pursued to ensure that they will actually employ British seafarers?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for mentioning the Pride of Hull. I was concerned to hear about the incident, but I am glad to confirm that the ship is safely back at berth. I commend all those who were responsible for responding to the incident. I am relieved that nobody was seriously injured, and I thank the crew for ensuring that everyone on board was safe.

There are, of course, ongoing conversations among all parts of Government to ensure that we have an appropriate response to the end of the EU transition period whatever the result of negotiations.