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Maritime Freight Capacity: Covid-19

Volume 685: debated on Thursday 3 December 2020

What assessment he has made of the adequacy of UK maritime freight capacity during the covid-19 outbreak. (909724)

First, may I put on record my thanks to all transport workers? They have done an incredible job throughout the pandemic. The UK maritime sector has worked tirelessly to keep freight moving and provide sufficient capacity throughout.

The loss of a critical element of UK freight capacity in P&O’s Hull to Zeebrugge route will not only be a devastating blow to jobs and trade in my constituency, but as it is one of the most direct routes between Pfizer’s Belgian factory and hard-hit areas in the north of England, that could have a severe impact on the rapid roll-out of the covid vaccine, which I am delighted to see has been approved for use this week. I wrote to the Secretary of State recently on this issue. What action are Ministers taking to ensure that P&O honours its commitments and that this vital route is maintained?

The hon. Gentleman is a powerful advocate for jobs and his local economy, and rightly so. My hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Robert Courts), the maritime Minister, has recently written to P&O on this matter, reminding it of its responsibilities, but decisions on the long-term viability of any route are a commercial decision. The vaccine strategy is led by the Department of Health and Social Care, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that alternative routes are available for the relatively limited volumes of traffic that will be required to bring in this much needed and life-saving vaccine.