Ministers have dismissed industry calls to let EU migrants fill the UK’s glaring shortage of lorry drivers.
The government on Sunday rejected a request by logistics and retail trade bodies for it to grant temporary work visas to drivers from the EU, instead saying that the government will increase training of Britons wanting to be hauliers.
Shortages are so acute that some companies are seeking to hire prisoners via a programme that allows inmates on day release to do paid work.
The association of Independent Meat Suppliers will reportedly meet with HM Prison Service this week, to ask it to priorities food suppliers with its Release on Temporary License (ROTL) scheme.
“Businesses are leaving no stone unturned to find workers, including contacting charities for ex-servicemen and women and the prison service, as well as advertising on social media to attract younger people,” Nick Allen, of the British Meat Processors Association, told The Sunday Times.
Channel crossings represent 0.59% of total migration into the UK.— PoliticsJOE (@PoliticsJOE_UK) August 19, 2021
There is also a shortage of 100,000 lorry drivers, resulting in post-Brexit food shortages.
Which do you think is more important?
Why do you think you hear more about one than the other? pic.twitter.com/8THTt8BGWx
Industry groups had written to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng urging action – and warning that the impact on supply chains is worsening.
Logistics UK – which represents freight firms – and the British Retail Consortium said that a temporary visa could lure back foreign lorry drivers who left the UK as a result of Brexit and Covid-19.
The two groups said in a letter that a shortfall around 90,000 HGV drivers “is placing increasingly unsustainable pressure on retailers and their supply chains”.
“While there was a shortage of HGV drivers prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, these two events have exacerbated situation.
“The pandemic halted driver training and testing for over 12 months, while an estimated 25,000 EU drivers returned home during the pandemic and following the end of the transition period.”
‘Take back control’
The government’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers scheme had permitted up to 30,000 overseas workers to come to the UK on temporary visas to do farm work for up to six months earlier this year.
But the ministers rejected the groups’ latest request, saying: “The British people repeatedly voted to end free movement and take back control of our immigration system and employers should invest in our domestic workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad.
“We recently announced a package of measures to help tackle the HGV driver shortage, including plans to streamline the process for new drivers to gain their HGV licence and to increase the number of tests able to be conducted.”