Government minister dismisses trucker visa plan despite industry and opposition pressure
The UK Government has once again resisted calls to change to its immigration system to allow foreign lorry drivers to be hired on a temporary basis. In a letter addressed to several Labour MPs, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps referred to the importance of the UK utilising its domestic workforce and “supporting the many UK-based workers who now face an uncertain future due to the impact of the measures to tackle Covid-19 and the need to find new employment opportunities."
“The government’s inability to get a grip on this situation threatens businesses and consumers, who are already seeing empty shelves in the shops this summer. British businesses can’t afford to wait until 2022 for the Government to deliver enough driving tests for hauliers – we need action now. They should have recognised these risks and planned far better, having been warned time and again by the industry. The Government have missed opportunities to work with the Migration Advisory Committee to plan for this. That must be urgently addressed.”
McCarthy’s view that immediate measures need to be considered, including lorry driver visas, has long been advocated by the Road Haulage Association as well as other industry bodies.
The government has nonetheless stood firm despite the pressure mounting in the face of empty shelves appearing on supermarkets across the country.
In the aforementioned letter, Shapps made it clear that he disagreed with the idea of using labour from abroad to alleviate staff shortages:
“I do not support using foreign labour to tackle a long-standing issue in the haulage industry. Leaving the EU has provided us with the opportunity to introduce a new immigration system while building a more resilient domestic workforce, and I am sure you would agree on the importance of utilising our domestic workforce and supporting the many UK-based workers who now face an uncertain future due to the impact of the measures to tackle Covid-19 and the need to find new employment opportunities.”
In response to the letter, McCarthy claimed on Twitter that the government’s plans would take 7 months to work, and asked what the stop-gap solution was.
But the driver shortage and impact on supply chain/ food supplies is happening NOW. Even if everyone taking an HGV test passes (which is highly unlikely!) at the current rate it would take 7 months to fill the vacancies. What’s the stopgap solution? Or isn’t there one? https://t.co/SqQtToiJb3
— Kerry McCarthy (@KerryMP) August 10, 2021