Sir Keir Starmer today called for 100,000 foreign lorry drivers to be granted visas to come to the UK as he blasted the Government’s handling of the fuel crisis.
Ministers have announced a temporary visa scheme that will see 5,000 HGV drivers allowed to take up employment in the UK until Christmas Eve.
But Sir Keir said ‘we are going to have to bring in more drivers and more visas’ amid reports that the shortfall of drivers is north of 90,000.
The Labour leader said that ‘for a long time we have known there is a problem’ and it was ‘predicted’ the situation would get worse after Brexit.
He said the Government was guilty of a ‘complete lack of planning’ as he suggested he would also grant permission for EU workers to come to the UK to take jobs in other industries struggling with recruitment like hospitality and food processing.
Sir Keir Starmer today called for 100,000 foreign lorry drivers to be granted visas to come to the UK as he blasted the Government’s handling of the fuel crisis
Ministers have announced a temporary visa scheme that will see 5,000 HGV drivers allowed to take up employment in the UK until Christmas Eve
The shortage of HGV drivers has hit the nation’s fuel network while retailers have warned the Government that it has just 10 days to save Christmas from ‘significant disruption’ amid pressure on the food supply chain.
Ministers want firms to hire and train British workers to fill HGV vacancies, with the 5,000 visas viewed as a short term fix.
But Sir Keir said the Government must go much further to avoid prolonged chaos this winter.
He said: ‘On the HGV situation, we are going to have to bring in more drivers and more visas.
‘I am astonished that the Government, knowing the situation is not acting today.
‘The Prime Minister needs to say today what he is going to do. There are 100,000 vacancies for drivers.’
Sir Keir continued: ‘For a long time we have known there is a problem with HGV drivers, that has been there for years.
‘But we knew in particular that when we exited the EU there would be a need for a back up plan to deal with the situation and there is no plan from the Government on this, and here we are, 100,000 needed and the Government is talking about 5,000 visas.’
Asked directly if he would bring in 100,000 foreign drivers if he was prime minister, Sir Keir said: ‘We are going to have to do that. We have to issue enough visas to cover the number of drivers that we need.’
He added: ‘If there is 100,000 vacancies for drivers in this country and the Government is saying we are going to bring in 5,000 visas, there is an obvious problem.
‘100,000 is, I think Norwich is 140,000. It is the size of a small city and the Government’s response is far, far too small.
‘Now, that is not an ideal response, it is a short term response. In the long term we need conditions to be improved, we need training, of course we do.
‘But the Government has known that for years and we have got a situation now where we have got an absolute crisis in this country through a lack of planning on behalf of the Government.’
Retailers have warned the Government that it has just 10 days to save Christmas from ‘significant disruption’ due to a massive shortfall of drivers in the freight sector
Sir Keir was asked whether he would take similar action to address worker shortages in other areas like food processing.
He said: ‘We can’t sit here and in relation to each of these issues say we are simply going to allow these industries, these sectors to go to the wall, that is not fair.
‘This is a complete lack of planning. We exited the EU, one consequence was there was going to be a shortage of HGV drivers. That was predictable. It was predicted.’
Told that his remarks were beginning to sound like he was advocating for a return to EU freedom of movement, Sir Keir said: ‘No, it is beginning to sound like a complete lack of planning. A complete lack of planning.
‘It is beginning to sound like a compete lack of planning because it is a lack of planning.’