CHANCELLOR Rishi Sunak claimed the UK is not “turning a blind eye to human rights abuses” after the PM’s failed Saudi Arabia trip bidding to pump more oil and reduce Russian reliance.

Sunak was also challenged over previous comments he made stating that he was “thrilled” the Dubai based owners of P&O ferries would be running a number of freeports in the UK.

It comes after P&O and parent company DP World got rid of 800 staff in a mass sacking last week sparking outrage across the country.

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Boris Johnson returned from his trip to Saudi Arabia, where he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, without a deal for more oil production to offset the impact of sanctions placed on Russia.

Instead, three more executions were carried out during the PM’s visit, not long after the regime killed 81 people in 24 hours.

Sunak was challenged on Johnson’s visit during an appearance on BBC One’s Sunday Morning programme.

He said: “No one is turning a blind eye to human rights abuses. I assume you’re referring to the Prime Minister’s trip to the Middle East?

The National:

Johnson with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

“It’s absolutely right that he engages with our partners and allies around the world as we contemplate how best to ensure energy security for this country.

“He raised human rights abuses while he was there, but also had very constructive dialogue about how we can work with allies around the world to bring better energy security here at home, and it’s right that he’s doing that.”

Journalist Sophie Raworth pointed out that bin Salman has been accused of personally ordering the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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Sunak said that the UK spoke out at the time and took action with sanctions, adding that “I don't think that's right to say that anyone is turning a blind eye to it.”

The Chancellor added it was right to have “constructive dialogue” with countries around the world in a bid to tackle the cost of living crisis and to bring “cheaper and more secure energy” to the people of the UK.

It comes as Sunak was challenged on the fact that P&O Ferries are owned by DP World, a Dubai based firm, who are due to take ownership of a number of freeports in the UK.

The National:

The Chancellor (above) previously said he was “thrilled about” this, and Rayworth asked if employees there should expect to be fired and rehired like P&O.

Sunak said: “As I said we're looking across government now, our contractual relationships with P&O and reviewing those at the moment.

"I can't preempt that process but obviously, no one is saying anything other than what happened is appalling that people should not be treated like that.”

READ MORE: Staff replacing sacked P&O Ferries workers face ‘poverty pay’, RMT union claims

Rayworth asked if the Chancellor would step in and stop DP World from taking on the operation of the freeports in question.

Sunak said: “They’re two different things, in the P&O ferries situation is something that we're actively looking at and we're reviewing all the contracts with P&O across government to determine what the right next steps are."

Rayworth then asked if the Chancellor was happy for the firm to take over the running of the freeports.

The National:

He said: “As far as I’m aware they already operate a port in the Thames estuary.”

Pressed again on his comments that he was thrilled over DP World taking over freeports in the south of England and that it would create local jobs, the Chancellor said: “I’m always happy when people are in work.

“I think that’s the most important thing that we can do, create the conditions for companies to create jobs for people.

“We've talked about cost of living and poverty - the best way to help people out of poverty and to tackle cost of living is to make sure that they are in well paid work.”