Only 127 fuel drivers apply for UK visa – PM

Only 127 fuel drivers from overseas have applied for temporary visas aimed at tackling shortages, the Prime Minister has said.

Boris Johnson said the haulage industry had “only produced 127 names so far” in response to the government’s scheme, which is aiming for 300 drivers.

Mr Johnson said it was a “fascinating illustration of the problem”, which he added was a “global” issue.

However, he said the was a “particular problem in the UK”.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, the prime minister said working in road haulage “should be a great job”, but added that there had been an under-investment in facilities and pay conditions.

He dismissed the problem was anything to do with Brexit, and noted the “supply chain problem is linked to recovery” and said other parts of the world were also affected.

“Imagine the UK has been in deep freeze and the pipes are unfreezing right now – stresses and strain of the economy waking up,” he said.

Trade bodies have estimated the UK currently has a shortage of about 90,000 HGV drivers, which has been caused by several factors, including the coronavirus pandemic, Brexit and an ageing workforce.

The shortages have started to affect supply chains in recent months, with some supermarkets struggling to stock certain products and petrol stations being unable to stock enough fuel to meet demand.

The shortages in fuel tanker drivers led to panic buying at the pumps, though supplies have improved in some areas in recent days according to data from the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA)

About 200 servicemen and women from the Army and RAF have been drafted in to help deliver fuel from depots to forecourts.

The PRA said one in five forecourts in London and the south-east of England still remained dry on Monday.

Under the government’s bespoke scheme, foreign drivers who successfully apply for visas will be able to work in the UK from now until the end of March.

Additionally, the government is offering some 4,700 visas for foreign food lorry drivers, which will last from late October to the end of February.

The government has said temporary visas were not a long-term solution and urged firms to invest in a UK workforce.

Mr Johnson said the UK economy could not “go back to the failed model where you mainline low-wage, low-skilled labour”.

“It’s time for investing in people and skills. This is a big turning o for UK economy.”

BBC

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