PM refuses to exclude empty shelves at Christmas due to shortage of truck drivers


Christmas supply chains could be impacted by truck driver shortage after Boris Johnson refused to rule out any disruption, but the prime minister insisted that this year, December 25 would be “considerably better” than in 2020.

A shortage of 100,000 heavy truck drivers in the UK is currently causing supply chain problems at gas stations, with many people across the country forced to shut down due to lack of fuel – but some fear that distribution problems will soon leave supermarket shelves empty.

Asked about a warning from Rishi Sunak that driver shortages could continue until Christmas, the prime minister told the BBC that the chancellor is “invariably right in everything he says”.

On the opening day of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, the Prime Minister insisted the fuel crisis “subsides” despite persistent reports of long lines for petrol in parts of the country.

But he declined to rule out that Christmas was impacted – when asked if empty supermarket shelves could be a feature of the holiday season, he said: “We’re going to see a time when the global economy, especially the UK economy due to the speed of recovery, is reducing demand very quickly. “

“Where there are problems that we can help with, we will do all we can,” the prime minister added.

He insisted, however, that he would not link job vacancies in the transport industry with “uncontrolled immigration”, amid calls to further relax visa rules for heavy truck drivers. foreigners, after the government said it would allow up to 5,000 to temporarily work in the UK.

But he did not rule out allowing more, saying he would keep “all options on the table” to resolve UK delivery difficulties.

Pressed on whether there could be more temporary visas issued, Mr Johnson told broadcasters in east Manchester: “We will take every step as we go, we are here to support industries that encounter challenges. difficulties.

“But it’s fundamentally up to them to find the way forward.

“At the end of the day, these companies, these industries, are the best solvers of their own supply chain problems – government cannot step in and fix every piece of the supply chain.

“But what we’re definitely going to do is keep all options on the table.”

And in comments that will give little hope to those worried about this year’s festivities, Mr Johnson said he was “very confident this Christmas will be considerably better” than the last.

Last year, after learning that restrictions on coronaviruses would be temporarily lifted over Christmas, the Prime Minister took last-minute action which meant that the British were only allowed to celebrate with members of their own household and support the bubbles.

It comes as military drivers prepare to hit the roads for the first time Monday in support of the operation to supply gas stations.

About 100 trained drivers and 100 additional support troops expected to deploy in the coming week, despite repeated assurances from ministers, the situation is “stabilizing”.

Long lines for petrol continue in London and the South East Credit: Gareth Fuller / PA

The Petrol Retailers Association hailed the move – described by the prime minister as a “precaution” – but warned it would have limited impact given the relatively small number of people involved.

He urged ministers to ensure that supplies are prioritized in areas with the most acute shortages – notably London and the South East, which have continued to see long lines at pumps.

By contrast, the situation in Scotland, northern England and the Midlands would calm down with supplies returning to normal.

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