Temporary measures being considered by Downing Street to alleviate the lack of HGV drivers

Picture: PA

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, stated that he would "move heaven and earth" to solve the supply chain crisis.

The government is exploring interim measures to address the HGV driver shortage, which is creating havoc on various UK sectors.

Following rumors that Boris Johnson had enabled ministers to soften UK immigration restrictions to let more foreign drivers into the country, No 10 stressed on Friday night that any measures taken would be "very strictly time-limited."

Although Downing Street refused to say whether any decisions had been taken, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had previously promised to "move heaven and earth" to resolve the matter.

According to the Financial Times and the Telegraph, Prime Minister David Cameron has permitted ministers to ease visa rules for foreign drivers temporarily.

According to the tabloids, up to 5,000 temporary visas for HGV drivers could be given. At the same time, the Financial Times said that a similar number of temporary visas for food processing workers, particularly in the poultry business, will be permitted.

Ministers gathered on Friday to debate the proposals, with sources indicating that the final approval might come over the weekend.

Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, said the improvements had come too late for many people.

“Boris Johnson's arrogance has cost jobs,” he claimed. He was aware that there was a solution to the situation, but he persisted. He owes an apology to the British people.”

The CBI has urged ministers to create a task force on par with the Cobra emergency committee to cope with supply challenges that have resulted in petrol forecourts closing and supermarket shelves being bare.

There have also been concerns that if action is not made to remedy the shortage of about 90,000 lorry drivers, disruption to holiday preparations will be "inevitable."

Getting petrol deliveries has been a problem for Esso, BP, and Tesco forecourts.

Around 20 of BP's 1,200 petrol forecourts were forced to close due to a lack of available fuel, with 50 to 100 sites affected by losing at least one fuel grade.

According to Esso owner ExxonMobil, which runs the sites, a "small number" of Tesco refilling stations have also been disrupted.

Customers will be limited to £30 due to "unprecedented customer demand for fuel," according to the EG Group, which operates about 400 petrol stations in the UK.

Meanwhile, according to a study by the Office for National Statistics, one in every six persons in the UK reported they were unable to purchase essential food items at some time in the previous two weeks owing to product shortages.

“We have ample fuel stocks in this country, and the public should be reassured there are no shortages,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

“However, we, like other countries around the world, are experiencing a temporary Covid-related driver shortage, which is preventing us from moving supplies around the country.

“We're looking at temporary solutions to avoid any immediate issues, but any solutions we implement will be strictly time-limited.

“We are transitioning to a high-wage, high-skilled economy, and businesses must adapt by investing more in recruitment and training to ensure long-term viability.

Although there have been chaotic scenes at petrol stations across the country, the Transport Secretary previously tried to prevent cars from panic-buying gasoline.

On Friday, lines began to form outside several gas stations.

“HGV drivers are the glue that holds our supply chains together,” said Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium.

“We wouldn't be able to move goods from farms to warehouses to stores without them.

“The UK is currently facing a shortage of around 90,000 HGV drivers, with consumers bearing the brunt of the consequences.”

“After speaking with hundreds of business leaders this week, it's clear there's a total mindset shift from growing to coping,” said Tony Danker, CBI director-general.

“This is now a significant threat to our economic recovery, and the government must respond with unprecedented speed and boldness.

“While the government is correct to continue to put pressure on businesses to adapt and not rely on immigration in the long run, temporary visas are the only way to alleviate shortages in critical skills areas of the economy in weeks and months rather than years.

“It is critical to get skills programs right as soon as possible to ensure that these measures are only needed temporarily.”

Publish : 2021-09-25 13:10:00

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