Labour calls on Govt to act with 'urgency' to save Christmas amid supply chain crisis

11 October 2021, 22:30 | Updated: 11 October 2021, 23:13

Labour has called on the Government to act with 'urgency' to tackle the shortage of HGV drivers, which has affected supply of many goods including petrol
Labour has called on the Government to act with 'urgency' to tackle the shortage of HGV drivers, which has affected supply of many goods including petrol. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Sir Keir Starmer has repeated his call for greater urgency from the Government to tackle haulage driver shortages, ahead of a visit to an HGV training centre.

The Labour leader dismissed recent Government plans to increase places on a HGV driver fast-track "skills boot camp" by 2,000 as a "sticking plaster" and called on them to take greater action "before yet another Christmas is ruined by Tory failure".

"The haulage sector is trying to save Christmas, get medical supplies to where they're needed and keep our forecourts open, whilst the Government is missing in action with their out of office on," said Mr Starmer, speaking ahead of a visit to a HGV training provider on Tuesday.

"This is a crisis made in Downing Street but so far being mopped up by businesses and workers.

"The industry has warned they need 15,000 extra drivers to meet Christmas food deliveries alone, which a sticking plaster boot camp scheme just isn't going to deliver.

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"This Government must break the habit of their decade in power by acting with the urgency required before yet another Christmas is ruined by Tory failure.

"Ministers need to listen to industry to build a secure HGV workforce, they must set out how exactly they are going to attract people to training, including by listening to Labour's plan to create more apprenticeships, and ultimately address how they are going to improve pay and conditions for this vital sector."

In response, a Government spokesperson said: "We have taken immediate action to increase the supply of HGV drivers to support fuel and food supply chains - streamlining the testing process, enabling fuel companies to work together and introducing short-term, temporary visas.

"We are seeing signs of improvement in average forecourt stocks across the UK, with demand continuing to stabilise.

"This is a global problem and we have been working closely with industry for months to boost recruitment."

The Government announced its intention to expand the fast-track training scheme for HGV drivers on Sunday, taking the total number of new drivers to 5,000.

However, because the courses take up to 16 weeks to complete and will not begin until next month, the scheme will do nothing to alleviate the supply chain crisis in the run up to Christmas.

"To help more people into the industry, we're expanding our skills bootcamps offer to support 5,000 people to gain the skills they need to be road ready, and to help those with previous experience refresh their skills so they can get back on the road," said Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi.

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Labour previously called the plans a "drop in the ocean" compared to what is required.

"It's clear the Government is either unwilling or unable to grasp the scale of the challenge facing Christmas," said Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon.

"If the Prime minister does not treat this crisis with the seriousness that is required and show real ambition in tackling it, working people will continue to pay the price with rising costs, rocketing energy bills and bare shelves this winter."