Written by the MP for Folkestone and Hythe, Kent

We are all appalled by the behavior of the management of P&O Ferries who have laid off their entire workforce and replaced them with agency workers paid well below minimum wage.

Its chief executive, Peter Hebblethwaite, even admitted to a parliamentary committee that P&O Ferries breached UK employment law for firing staff without consultation.

P&O Ferries cannot benefit from the measures it has taken and the government is doing everything it can to ensure that this is the case.

The Department for Transport has referred Peter Hebblethwaite to the Insolvency Service which has the power to disqualify him from being a UK company director.

P&O believes that because they have registered their ferries, like the Pride of Kent abroad that they only have to pay their crews the UK National Minimum Wage while they are in our territorial waters.

However, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has now opened negotiations with the French government to introduce new requirements that all staff working on cross-Channel ferry lines must be paid at least minimum wage level.

I share the concerns that many people have expressed to me about the safety of ferries operating in the English Channel, with newly recruited agency staff, many of whom may have little or no work experience in these conditions.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has already intervened to stop two P&O ferries departing from Dover because it did not believe they were operating to the required safety standards.

In the House of Commons on Thursday, I asked Grant Shapps to ensure the agency remains vigilant in its oversight of P&O Ferries.

The government is being proactive in dealing with the practical consequences of the P&O redundancies by providing support to the seafarers affected.

A new Maritime Skills Portal has been launched by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to connect those affected by redundancy with opportunities to apply their skills to new jobs in the transport sector.

This is in addition to DWP’s specialist rapid response service which provides support to the local Job Center Plus.

F51 | Photo: Hufton and Crow

Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending the official opening of Skate Park Folkestone 51 (F51) at Tontine Street.

This long-awaited £17million development marks a new era for this part of town; attracting talent from afar and investing in young people growing up in the constituency, who will be able to benefit from a £1 monthly membership through their schools.

As well as the international standard multi-storey skate park, the first of its kind in the world, the site is also the new home of the Folkestone Amateur Boxing Club and offers the highest climbing wall in the South East, with walls of 15 m high, overhanging roof sections and 350 square meters of climbing surface!

My thanks go to Jenner Construction, Guy Holloway Architects and most importantly the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust who made this possible.

Hopefully we will see future Olympians develop their skills here and provide many more people with the opportunity to practice their sport at these incredible new facilities.