Sir Keir Starmer today called on 100,000 foreign truck drivers to get visas to come to the UK, while criticizing the government’s handling of the fuel crisis.
Ministers have announced a temporary visa regime allowing 5,000 lorry drivers to work in the UK until Christmas Eve.
But Sir Keir said ‘we will have to bring in more drivers and more visas’ amid reports that the driver shortage is north of 90,000.
The Labor leader said “we have known for a long time there is a problem” and it was “predicted” that the situation would worsen after Brexit.
He said the government was guilty of a ‘complete lack of planning’ as he suggested it would also allow EU workers to come to the UK to take on jobs in other sectors struggling with recruitment, such as hospitality. and food processing.
Sir Keir Starmer today called on 100,000 foreign truck drivers to get visas to come to the UK while criticizing the government’s handling of the fuel crisis
Ministers have announced temporary visa regime allowing 5,000 lorry drivers to work in the UK until Christmas Eve
The shortage of truck drivers has hit the country’s fuel network, as retailers have warned the government it has just 10 days to save Christmas from “significant disruption” amid pressures on the food supply chain.
Ministers want companies to hire and train British workers to fill truck vacancies, with the 5,000 visas seen as a short-term solution.
But Sir Keir said the government needs to go much further to avoid protracted chaos this winter.
He said: ‘As for the truck situation, we will have to bring in more drivers and more visas.
“I am surprised that the government, knowing the situation, is not acting today.
The Prime Minister must say today what he is going to do. There are 100,000 vacancies for drivers.’
Sir Keir continues: ‘We have known for a long time that there is a problem with truck drivers, it has been there for years.
“But we knew in particular that when we leave the EU a backup plan would be needed 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.’
When asked directly whether he would bring in 100,000 foreign drivers if he were Prime Minister, Sir Keir said: ‘We will have to do that. We have to issue enough visas to cover the number of drivers we need.’
He added: ‘If there are 100,000 driver vacancies in this country and the government says we are going to introduce 5,000 visas, there is an obvious problem.
‘100,000 is, I think Norwich is 140,000. It’s the size of a small city and the government’s response is way, way too small.
“Well, that’s not an ideal response, that’s a short-term response. In the long run we need conditions to improve, we need training, of course.
“But the government has known that for years and we now have a situation where we have an absolute crisis in this country due to a lack of planning on behalf of the government.”
Retailers have warned the government it has just 10 days to save Christmas from ‘significant disruption’ due to a massive driver shortage in the freight sector
Sir Keir was asked if he would take similar steps to address staff shortages in other areas, such as food processing.
He said: ‘We can’t sit here and say in every one of these issues that we’re just going to let these industries, these sectors go to the wall, that’s not fair.
“This is a complete lack of planning. We left the EU, as a result there would be a shortage of truck drivers. That was predictable. It was predicted.’
When he said his comments were beginning to sound like he was advocating a return to free movement for the EU, Sir Keir said: ‘No, it’s starting to sound like a complete lack of planning. A complete lack of planning.
“It’s starting to sound like a competitive lack of planning because it’s a lack of planning.”