Russian President Putin’s brutal assault on its neighbour, Ukraine, still rightly fills our TV screens. The unbelievable callousness of this war on children reminds us of Syria in recent years where whole cities, like Aleppo, were destroyed and most importantly, its residents butchered. What is different is the incredible success of the Ukrainian armed forces in resisting Putin’s attacks. What is sadly the same is the steady stream of frightened people fleeing their home and even their country in search of safety. Many countries have offered safe passage and a three-year refugee status for those fleeing this war. Most Rochdale constituents who have contacted me, tell me refugees are welcome and want Britain to help but sadly again, our government has been slow to issue visas and made it difficult for people, even those with strong family connections with relatives in the UK, to travel here. Our government can do better and should do because this is what the public wants.
On a very different scale of things, the decision by P&O Ferries to sack 800 of its workforce and replace them with non-UK staff in order to pay below minimum wage pay rates is shocking and disgraceful. The company’s Chief Executive has admitted to a Parliamentary Committee that this action is illegal. They are now trying to brow-beat the existing workers to accept a paltry pay-off with the threat there’ll get nothing if they haven’t agreed by Thursday. A government minister came to Parliament this week and was pressed to commit to taking legal action to keep people in their jobs on existing terms and conditions, but he was just too junior to give that promise. Boris Johnson has got to stand up now for the P&O staff who kept our goods and people moving during the Covid pandemic and helped keep our country safe. He needs to make it clear that those in P&O who broke the law will be held to account. Prime Minister Johnson knows from his own experience that no one can expect to be above the laws of the land. The sad thing is that the laws of our land could have been much stronger if the government had not killed off a Bill preventing fire and rehire like this, going through Parliament as recently as last October. Crocodile tears won’t save jobs, strong legal protections will.