Welsh MP calls on Tories to ‘put immigration clampdown ideology to one side’ to fix fuel crisis
A Welsh MP has called on the Conservatives to “put their immigration clampdown ideology to one side” to fix the shortage of petrol and diesel available at garages.
HGV drivers should be added to the UK Government’s Shortage Occupations List, allowing them to be hired faster from abroad, so that food and fuel could be delivered quicker, Hywel Williams said.
The Arfon made the comments as BP and Esso announced on Thursday that a number of petrol stations were closed due to a shortage of HGV drivers.
This followed warnings on Tuesday by Ian Wright, the chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, who said consumers could start noticing shortages in poultry, pork and bakery products in the coming days.
A Caerphilly-based medical supply company also warned on Wednesday that a shortage of lorry drivers could hit NHS care for patients.
Hywel Williams said that the supply crisis was reaching “breaking point” but that “Tories in Westminster are still burying their heads in the sand”.
“This is a market failure caused by Westminster. A combination of a decision to impose a restrictive immigration policy after leaving the EU, a critical lack of forward planning by Government and awful working conditions for drivers has created a perfect storm of the UK Government’s own making,” the Plaid Cymru MP said.
“To use the Tories’ own language – it is now time they take back control of this crisis by using the flexibilities provided by the Shortage Occupations List mechanism.
“If they want to avoid engulfing working people in a spiralling crisis this winter, the UK Government must put their immigration clampdown ideology to one side and make it easier for firms to hire HGV drivers from abroad.”
The UK’s Transport Secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that Brexit was not part of the problem for recruiting HGV drivers in the UK, instead arguing that being divorced from the European Union had helped enable some of the solutions.
However, the Road Haulage Association estimates that 15,000 EU lorry drivers returned to their home countries during the pandemic, and were unable to return following the introduction of strict immigration rules after the end of the transition period on 31 January 2021.
Overall, the RHA estimates that the UK is short of around 100,000 HGV drivers.
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Technology and Transport, Natasha Asghar MS, said that the Labour Welsh Government should kick start HGV training for 18–25-year-olds in Wale to help solve the crisis.
With many young people being impacted by the pandemic, the Welsh Government should support those who are willing to have a career in transport by covering the cost of the course which can run up to £2,000 per person, she said.
The call follows changes by the British Government which will see learner lorry drivers being able to take their test in a large articulated lorry, without having to do a prior test in a large rigid lorry.
“This isn’t going to fix the problem overnight but for many young people who are looking at the increasing benefits of becoming a lorry driver but don’t have the funds to start the training, this could kick start their future in the industry,” Natasha Asghar MS said.
“Having had in depth discussions with members of the Road Haulage Association, the Welsh Government should also look at what further support they can give to improving the conditions for lorry drivers on Welsh roads, ensuring that basic services such as toilets are available throughout the night and not just during the day.”