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Calls for P&O Ferries to pay back all their £10m furlough payments

Ministers have demanded for the British taxpayer to be reimbursed by the ferry company

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Roel Hemkes / Wikimedia Commons & BBC

A minister has said it would be the ‘right thing to do’ for P&O to repay the £10m in government furlough money following its ‘disgraceful’ decision to make all its staff redundant.

The ferry operator, which was bought by Dubai-based logistics giant DP World in 2019, sparked outrage yesterday when it told its 800-strong workforce that their jobs had been terminated with immediate effect in a virtual Zoom meeting.

The staff will reportedly be replaced by ‘cheaper’ agency workers in a move that unions have called ‘outrageous’.

And P&O’s lack of consultation with staff, unions and the Government has now led to calls for the company to reimburse the £10 million it received in furlough cash during the Covid pandemic.

This morning, Defence Minister James Heappey slammed the company’s behaviour and lack of consultation as ‘horrendous’, and urged the Treasury and Department for Transport to take back the £10m in furlough cash.

He said: “It certainly feels to me that it would be the right thing to do for P&O to hand that money back and I am sure that colleagues at the Treasury and Department for Transport will be looking into it.

“It’s absolutely disgraceful behaviour by P&O.

“As far as I know from my colleagues around Government, the Government didn’t get much more notice than the employees of P&O did.”

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Heappey also said that beyond offering the sacked employees support, there is very little Ministers can do to reverse P&O’s decision, telling Sky News: “Sadly it’s the case that the government cannot force an employer to continue to employ people it has said it doesn’t want to continue to employ.”

In its statement, P&O cited significant year-on-year losses and taking decisions to ensure its ‘survival’ as an explanation to its controversial decision.

The statement read: “In its current state, P&O Ferries is not a viable business. We have made a £100m loss year on year, which has been covered by our parent DP World.

“This is not sustainable. Our survival is dependent on making swift and significant changes now. Without these changes there is no future for P&O Ferries.

“These circumstances have resulted in a very difficult but necessary decision, which was only taken after seriously considering all the available options.

“As part of the process we are starting today, we are providing 800 seafarers with immediate severance notices and will be compensating them for this lack of advance notice with enhanced compensation packages.

“In making this tough decision, we are securing the future viability of our business which employs an additional 2,200 people and supports billions in trade in and out of the UK.”

P&O said today it would not be able to operate services ‘for the next few days’ from Dover to Calais, Hull to Rotterdam, Liverpool to Dublin, and Cairnryan, Scotland, to Larne, Northern Ireland.

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Police restart search for Moors Murders victim Keith Bennett as skull found

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The search for murder victim Keith Bennet has resumed as ‘potential human remains’ were found on moorland, police have confirmed.

The remains were found during an independent search on Saddleworth Moor by author Russell Edwards, who reported his discovery to Greater Manchester Police.

Detectives are said to be analysing a small sample of the remains and some clothing, the MailOnline reports.

Twelve year old Bennett was one of the five children tortured and killed by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley in the 1960s. His body has never been recovered.

GMP said in a statement: “We have always said that GMP would act on any significant information which may lead to the recovery of Keith and reunite him with his family.

“Officers met with Mr. Edwards yesterday evening (September 29th), and he was able to locate a site of interest and provide us with further details of the work he has been carrying out.

“We are at the very early stages of assessing the evidence which he brought to our attention, but have taken the decision to excavate an area of land with a view to determining what lies there.

“It is far too early to be certain whether human remains have been uncovered, but out of respect for Alan Bennett, who we regularly maintain contact with, we have informed him of this potential development.

“Alan does not wish to be disturbed at this time and we would ask that his request for privacy is respected.”

Bennett was lured into a van by Hindley on June 16th, 1964. He was then taken to Saddleworth Moor, where he was sexually abused and murdered by Brady. 

Despite his heartbroken mother’s pleas, neither Brady nor Hindley ever revealed where they had buried his body. 

Winnie Johnson continued visiting Saddleworth Moor to search for her son until her death in 2012. 

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Cause of Queen Elizabeth’s death revealed

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Queen Elizabeth’s exact cause of death has been revealed as an extract of her death certificate is released to the public.

The Registrar General for Scotland, Paul Lowe, confirmed that Her Majesty The Queen’s death was registered in Aberdeenshire on September 16th, and that the cause of her death was old age.

The document, released by National Records of Scotland, notes the Queen died at 3.10pm on Thursday September 8th. 

The Queen’s only daughter Princess Anne is named as the ‘informant’ on the document, and would have notified the local registrar of her mother’s death.

Anne, who accompanied her mother’s coffin as it travelled from Balmoral to London via Edinburgh, was with the head of state in her last moments.

She said: “I was fortunate to share the last twenty-four hours of my dearest mother’s life.”

Queen Elizabeth was laid to rest on September 19th following a historic seventy-year reign on the throne. 

Her Majesty spent four days lying-in-state at Westminster Hall ahead of the state funeral, where around 250,000 Royal well-wishers came to pay their respects and say a final goodbye.

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Royal Mail to strike for 19 days with Black Friday and Christmas deliveries affected

Strike action will take place across October and November

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Black Friday and Christmas deliveries face delays as Royal Mail workers prepare to strike across the next two months.

The Communication Workers Union announced that action in October and November will be a mixture of ‘single days and rolling action’ across Royal Mail Group’s network.

This includes walkouts from 4am on October 13th for twenty-four hours, and then again on October 20th and 25th, as well as November 28th. 

The union said the strike action will have a ‘dramatic impact’ on deliveries, and will cover peak mail periods such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the Christmas build-up.

It could also impact Amazon’s second Prime Day, with sale dates for subscribers on October 11th and 12th.

The CWU says the strike action comes following an ‘outrageous’ decision made by the Royal Mail Group’s senior management to withdraw from major national agreements, push ahead with cuts to workers’ terms and conditions and ‘completely sideline’ the union.

General secretary Dave Ward said: “This is a significant announcement, but it is one which matches the level of anger our members feel at the way Royal Mail Group has treated them.

“The chief executive of Royal Mail Group is treating postal workers as if they are stupid. These are the same people that have kept the country connected and returned Royal Mail Group to record profit.

Postal workers across the UK now face the fight of their lives to save their jobs and the service they provide to every household and business in the UK.”

Ward went on to urge everyone to ‘stand with their local postal worker’, adding: “If Royal Mail Group are allowed to get away with this then it sends a green light to every rogue big business in the UK.

“We will not stand by and see the Royal Mail Group become the next P&O but we need your backing to win.”

However, the Royal Mail says changes are needed as it is currently losing £1million a day. A spokesperson said: “On September 22nd, Royal Mail invited CWU to enter into talks through Acas to find a resolution to our dispute on change and pay.

“This evening, rather than responding to our offer of Acas talks, the CWU announced further damaging industrial action, once again taking the path of prolonging disruption over resolution.

“Royal Mail is losing £1 million a day and must change faster in response to changing customer demands. We operate in a competitive market, and our customers have choices… Further strikes and resistance to transformation by CWU will only make our financial position worse, and threatens the long-term job security of our postmen and women.

“The CWU has a responsibility to recognise the reality of the situation Royal Mail faces as a business and engage urgently on the changes required.

“We apologise to our customers for the inconvenience the CWU’s continued strike action will cause. We are doing all we can to minimise any delays and keep people, businesses and the country connected.”

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