10,500 foreign visas get Government green light as panic grows of Christmas supply chain crisis

More than 10,000 temporary foreign visas will be fast-tracked by the Government as ministers rush to solve the supply chain crisis that’s threatening Christmas.
5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers will be given extraordinary three-month visas allowing them to work in the UK until Christmas Eve.
The move comes amid a nationwide panic-buying spree at petrol stations and growing fear inside Downing Street that supermarket shelves could remain barren until Christmas.   
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the changes, with the visas available from next month, would ‘ensure preparations remain on track’ for the festive season.
Retailers had warned the Government that it had just 10 days to save Christmas from ‘significant disruption’ due to a shortfall of about 90,000 drivers in the freight sector.

It comes as thousands of desperate drivers ignored Government pleas for calm as they jammed roads – with fears mounting over the impact of lasting fuel shortages on the economy. 

5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers will be given extraordinary three-month visas allowing them to work in the UK until Christmas Eve

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps (above) said the changes, with the visas available from next month, would ‘ensure preparations remain on track’ for the festive season

Furious motorists were seen fighting on Saturday as the nationwide rush for fuel continued amid calls for calm from the Government because less than 100 petrol stations were empty.
Shocking footage showed panic buyers punch and kick at each other during a violent brawl at an Esso petrol forecourt in Sidlesham, Chicester, as roads were left gridlocked and police had to be called in to marshal drivers.

Two men were seen grappling before throwing punches at one another, while another enraged motorist launched a flying kick at another man as the scramble for fuel turned violent in the sleepy West Sussex village.
The shortage of HGV drivers has long threatened to wreak havoc this winter, and it has been exacerbated by a huge backlog in HGV tests due to Covid, as well as foreign drivers returning home amid the pandemic and Brexit. 
Industry groups the Food and Drink Federation and Logistics UK both welcomed the visa changes, with federation chief Ian Wright calling the measures ‘pragmatic’.
But British Chamber of Commerce president Baroness McGregor-Smith said the changes were the ‘equivalent of throwing a thimble of water on a bonfire’, and that  the 5,000 new visas may be too little, too late to halt the chaos.    
The announcement about immigration rules being relaxed to ease supply pressures comes amid scenes of lengthy queues at petrol stations after a shortage of specialised tanker drivers forced some fuel retailers to shut their pumps and ration sales.

A Shell garage employee holds a sign on the side of the road informing traffic that they do not have unleaded petrol

Some had multiple jerry cans in the boot of their cars and spent time filling each up while others queued for hours to reach the pump. Pictured: Customers queuing in their cars to access an Asda petrol station in east London on Saturday

As well as the short-term measure of opening up to foreign workers, the Ministry of Defence is also stepping in to provide examiners to help clear a backlog of drivers desperately trying to get their licences. 
Officials said the loan of MoD examiners to work alongside Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) employees would help put on ‘thousands of extra tests’ over the next 12 weeks.
Meanwhile, nearly one million letters will be landing in the coming days on the doormats of people with HGV licences to encourage those who have left the industry to return.
The letter will set out the steps the haulage sector is taking to improve industry conditions, including increased wages, flexible working and fixed hours, according to the Department for Transport.
Mr Shapps said: ‘This package of measures builds on the important work we have already done to ease this global crisis in the UK, and this Government continues to do everything we can to help the haulage and food industries contend with the HGV driver shortage.
‘We are acting now but the industries must also play their part, with working conditions continuing to improve and the deserved salary increases continuing to be maintained in order for companies to retain new drivers.

‘After a very difficult 18 months, I know how important this Christmas is for all of us and that’s why we’re taking these steps at the earliest opportunity to ensure preparations remain on track.’

A motorist lays out a half dozen fuel containers on the floor of the forecourt in Upminster to fill her boot with fuel while desperate drivers queue for hours behind

The problems were triggered after BP and Esso admitted on Thursday that a lack of tanker drivers was hitting deliveries (pictured, gridlock at a petrol station in Tonbridge)

A BP at Hampton Court says ‘Sorry we’re out of diesel’ after frenzied buying saw stations swamped by panicked customers

A major shortage of HGV drivers threatens to wreak havoc this winter, and the shortage has been exacerbated by a huge backlog in HGV tests due to Covid

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated a global shortage of lorry drivers, although there have been long-term issues in the UK with labour numbers amid an ageing workforce, low wages and poor truck stop conditions.
The DfT said it recognised that importing foreign labour ‘will not be the long term solution’ to the problem and that it wanted to see investment poured into establishing a robust domestic workforce.

Officials said the Government continued to support solving the high vacancy rate through improved testing and hiring, with better pay, working conditions and diversity.
Another long-term measure to turn the situation around will see the Department for Education plough up to £10 million into creating new ‘skills bootcamps’ to train up to 3,000 more people to become HGV drivers.
The free, intensive courses will train drivers to undertake an entry level HGV licence (Category C) or a more advanced course to operate heavier and longer lorries (Category C&E).
Another 1,000 people are expected to be trained through courses accessed locally and funded by the Government’s adult education budget.
Those accessing medical and HGV licences through the adult budget in the 2021/22 academic year will have their qualifications paid for by the state, with the funding backdated to anyone who started one of these qualifications on or after August 1.

More DVSA examiners will also be freed up to conduct lorry driver tests via a law change to allow driving examiners at the three emergency services and the MoD to be able to conduct driving tests for one another.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: ‘HGV drivers keep this country running.
‘We are taking action to tackle the shortage of drivers by removing barriers to help more people to launch new well-paid careers in the industry, supporting thousands to get the training they need to be road ready.’
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: ‘We have listened to concerns from the sector and we are acting to alleviate what is a very tight labour market.’
The Government said it had already streamlined the process for new HGV drivers while increasing the number of driving tests available to allow for an extra 50,000 tests to take place per year.
UK needs nearly TWO MILLION workers: Active job posts reveal bosses are crying out for 55,019 care staff, 36, 471 chefs, 32,615 sales assistants – amid urgent calls to relax immigration rules to ease crisis

UK job advert numbers have reached the highest figure in at least a year, with almost two million positions currently being offered, newly released figures have revealed.
Job market data from September 13 to September 19 shows more than 220,000 new job adverts were posted, bringing the total number of active job adverts to 1.9million.
According to the figures, there were 36,000 new adverts for chefs, around 32,000 for sales assistants and 6,500 for bar staff in that period.
The figures for hospitality jobs are likely to reflect the country opening back up in the wake of Covid-19 rules being lifted.
But the job advert figures also show more than 7,500 job adverts have been posted for HGV drivers in the UK in the last week. Some offer salaries upward of £50,000-a-year. 
The flurry of job adverts comes amid a shortage of lorry drivers across the UK.

The Road Haulage Association estimate the UK to be short of 100,000 HGV drivers.
Brexit and Covid are among the major reasons put forward by transport groups and ministers for the shortage, which has sparked chaos for the UK’s transport industry. 
It comes as panic buying set in today at fuel stations up and down the UK after BP yesterday announced it the HGV driver shortage meant fuel was not getting to some of its pumps.
Meanwhile, Government officials are said to be growing increasingly concerned about the possibility of a ‘winter of discontent’ this year, with supermarkets warning of food shortages and more energy firms went bust amid rising gas prices.
The Bank of England on Thursday warned the spiralling costs could see inflation rise by 4 per cent this year – the highest rate of growth for a decade.
Ministers are today being urged to consider relaxing immigration rules to tackle the jobs crisis, while Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urged people not to panic buy fuel, saying: ‘carry on as normal’.

Job market data from September 13 to September 19 shows firms in the UK need, in total, more than 36,000 chefs, around 32,000 sales assistants and 6,500 bar staff

UK job advert numbers have reached the highest figure in at least a year, with almost two million positions currently being offered, newly released figures have revealed. Pictured: A graph showing the number of job adverts being offered in the UK

A breakdown of the figures by each area, with the most number of active job postings currently in the south east

A breakdown of the figures by different job types, including cleaners, care workers and chefs

More than 500,000 over-50s have withdrawn from UK labour market since Covid, says employment expert

More than 500,000 over-50s have withdrawn from the UK labour market since the start of the Covid pandemic, according to an employment expert.
The sudden withdrawal of hundreds of thousands of staff, plus a drop in the number of migrant workers and an increase in the number of students has led to record numbers of job vaccancies, according to Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘It’s right (that there are fewer workers around). The labour market is much smaller than it was before the pandemic began.

‘We estimate that there is about a million fewer people in the labour market now than there were before the crisis began and probably about a quarter of that is explained by lower migration and that’s mainly lower immigration since the pandemic rather than higher emigration.
‘About 500,000 of that is explained by more people over 50 who have withdrawn from the labour market. That’s compared with what we would have expected to happen, because over 50s employment and labour market participation has been growing for decades, but that growth has now reversed.
‘So it’s about half a million is explained by over 50s, while 300,000 is explained by young people in full time education – so more young people more in education.’
‘And there is a little bit which is furlough, which is ending next week, but it looks like that may only be between 200,000-300,000 workers, so it could be around one million workers.’ 
Asked what the sudden spike in over-50s dropping from the labour market, he said: ‘It’s a combination of factors. A lot will be the pandemic. It will be people who will have been furloughed, who have taken time away from the labour market and simply aren’t returning.
‘Some of it will be people who feel they can’t go back to work, they may have been shielding for example and may come back in the future.’ 

 

According to the figures, from the 13-19 September, there were 1.9 million active job adverts currently active in the UK.  
The figures are from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC)’s latest Job Recovery Tracker – which tracks the number of job adverts and there different sectors they are in.
The 1.9million figure is a new record high for the tracker, which started collecting data in January 2020. 
According to the tracker, there were 223,000 new job adverts posted in the week of 13-19 September.

The biggest surge in new jobs was in the care sector, where more than 55,000 new job adverts were posted during that period.
There were also more than 30,000 adverts for chefs, sales assistants and primary school teachers.
More than 28,000 new job adverts also appeared for cleaners and 22,000 for metal workers. 
Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said the figures were ‘good news’.  But he warned that a shortage in labour could slow the UK’s recovery from Covid.
He said: ‘Job postings are rising in every area of the UK. That’s good news, and we are seeing more employees starting new positions than ever – but demand from employers is even higher still. 
‘There is a real chance now that shortages of available workers will slow the recovery.
‘A recent REC survey of recruiters found that three in five have over 30% more vacancies than usual, and 97% said it’s taking longer to fill them. 
‘Labour shortages and the related recruitment difficulties put constraints on the economy, restricting output growth and innovation, so it’s vital we solve them quickly.’
Mr Carberry urged Government departments and industry experts to come together to solve the shortage.

It comes as employment expert today claimed more than 500,000 over-50s have withdrawn from the UK labour market since the start of the Covid pandemic.
The sudden withdrawal of hundreds of thousands of staff, plus a drop in the number of migrant workers and an increase in the number of students has led to record numbers of job vaccancies, according to Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘It’s right (that there are fewer workers around). The labour market is much smaller than it was before the pandemic began.
‘We estimate that there is about a million fewer people in the labour market now than there were before the crisis began and probably about a quarter of that is explained by lower migration and that’s mainly lower immigration since the pandemic rather than higher emigration.
‘About 500,000 of that is explained by more people over 50 who have withdrawn from the labour market. That’s compared with what we would have expected to happen, because over 50s employment and labour market participation has been growing for decades, but that growth has now reversed.
‘So it’s about half a million is explained by over 50s, while 300,000 is explained by young people in full time education – so more young people more in education.
‘And there is a little bit which is furlough, which is ending next week, but it looks like that may only be between 200,000-300,000 workers, so it could be around one million workers.’

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggested adding HGV drivers to the skilled worker list for immigration purposes would not solve the problem, although he insisted he nothing had been ruled out

Agricutlure Secretary George Eustice has indicated that the government is preparing to extend the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) this year to help tackle the UK’s HGV crisis

Asked what the sudden spike in over-50s dropping from the labour market, he said: ‘It’s a combination of factors. A lot will be the pandemic. It will be people who will have been furloughed, who have taken time away from the labour market and simply aren’t returning.
‘Some of it will be people who feel they can’t go back to work, they may have been shielding for example and may come back in the future.’ 

Seasonal worker scheme ‘could tackle food labour problem’ 

The Government’s seasonal worker scheme could be extended and its focus ‘changed’ as part of a plan to tackle labour shortages in food production.
Agricutlure Secretary George Eustice has indicated that the government is preparing to extend the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) this year to help tackle the UK’s HGV crisis.
Mr Eustice also said ministers were looking at ‘changing the focus’ of the scheme to push for more HGV drivers.
The scheme is mainly used by seasonal workers who are picking fruit and vegetables in the UK. 
Speaking at the Balmoral Show in Northern Ireland, he said there was ‘an acute labour shortage at the moment right across the UK economy’. 
He also said the government would be trying to encourage EU workers with settled status to return to the UK.

The comments came as panic buying at the pumps began today amid fears fuel rationing is on the way due to the UK’s crippling HGV driver shortage – as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tried to calm nerves by urging Britons ‘carry on as normal’.
Queues of cars were seen spilling out on to the road from forecourts in Tonbridge, Kent, in Ely, Cambridgeshire, Bright and Leeds this morning – just a day after fuel bosses warned of petrol and diesel rationing and petrol station closures. 
One petrol station in Essex, was already said to have run out of diesel by this morning, while outside another forecourt on the A12, also in Essex, queues were said to be ‘three rows deep to every pump’.
The scenes of queues outside petrol stations  – which for some will stir up memories of the 1973 Opec Oil Crisis and the 2000 fuel shortage – come amid fears of a 1978-style ‘winter of discontent’ for the UK, with skyrocketing energy prices, food shortages and fuel rationing.  
Yesterday BP announced plans to ration fuel and a ‘handful’ of its petrol stations, along with ‘small number’ of Tesco refilling stations, while supermarkets warned of food shortages and more energy firms went bust amid rising gas prices – sparking fears of a new ‘winter of discontent’.
And in a particularly unhelpful addition to the problem, eco-mob Insulate Britain returned to the roads today to block off a route to Port of Dover – Europe’s busiest port and the UK’s main gateway for trade from the EU.
It comes as Petrol Retailers Association last night warned drivers to ‘keep a quarter of a tank’ of fuel in their vehicles in preparation for potential closures of local petrol stations.   
Meanwhile Ministers faced fresh pressure to ease immigration rules as an emergency measure to attract HGV drivers from overseas amid warnings that 100,000 more were needed across the industry.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today hinted at the possibility, saying he would move ‘heaven and earth’ to tackle the ‘systemic issue’ of HGV driver shortages.
He also claimed transport firms were offering huge salaries in a bid to entice drivers who have left the industry to come back – with one ‘top milk firm’ apparently offering as much as ‘£78,000-a-year’.   
Meanwhile, one vegetable firm in Lincolnshire is currently advertising a broccoli picker role for £30-per-hour – equivalent to around £62,000-a-year. 
Government source warned last night that Downing Street is growing increasingly ‘worried’ over a brewing ‘winter of discontent’ – with Christmas ruined by soaring energy bills, shortages and Universal Credit cuts. 
Ministers are said to have drawn up plans to put soldiers on standby in case they are required to drive petrol tankers in case of severe crisis. 
When questioned about this on BBC Breakfast, Mr Shapps said: ‘If it can actually help, we will bring them in.’ 
But he urged people not to panic buy, telling Sky News: ‘The advice would be to carry on as normal, and that’s what BP are saying as well.’ 

TONBRIDGE: KENT: Queues of cars were seen spilling out on the road from a Kent forecourt this morning just a day after fuel bosses warned of fuel rationing and petrol station closures

BRIGHTON: Customers queue for fuel at a supermarket petrol station in Brighton this morning . Some BP and Shell petrol stations have had to temporarily close because of a shortage of HGV drivers in the UK

LEEDS: Queues at a Sainsbury’s Petrol Station in Colton, Leeds. Drivers are being urged by the Government to “buy fuel as normal”, after the lorry driver shortage hit supplies

A graphic illustrating how the three issues are currently affecting the UK and the problems it is causing. The People’s Energy Company (bottom, middle) is one of the energy suppliers that have already gone bust

Ministers face pressure to ease immigration rules as emergency measure to attract HGV drivers from overseas 

Motorists and shoppers have been urged not to panic buy fuel and goods as the shortage of lorry drivers hit supplies.
Ministers faced fresh pressure to ease immigration rules as an emergency measure to attract HGV drivers from overseas amid warnings that 100,000 more were needed across the industry.
BP said a ‘handful’ of its filling stations are closed due to a lack of fuel available, while Esso owner ExxonMobil also said a ‘small number’ of its Tesco Alliance petrol forecourts have been impacted.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggested adding HGV drivers to the skilled worker list for immigration purposes would not solve the problem, although he insisted he nothing had been ruled out.
The issues around petrol supply, on top of problems in the food industry and rising gas prices have led to warnings the Government faces a ‘winter of discontent’.
A combination of factors including Brexit leading to the loss of European Union drivers, the pandemic preventing driving tests and systemic problems in the industry relating to pay and conditions have led to the shortage of qualified HGV drivers.
Rod McKenzie of the Road Haulage Association trade body accused ministers of ‘government by inertia’, allowing the situation to get ‘gradually worse’ in recent months.
‘We have got a shortage of 100,000 (drivers),’ he told BBC’s Newsnight. ‘When you think that everything we get in Britain comes on the back of a lorry – whether it’s fuel or food or clothes or whatever it is – at some point, if there are no drivers to drive those trucks, the trucks aren’t moving and we’re not getting our stuff.’
Mr McKenzie added: ‘I don’t think we are talking about absolutely no fuel or food or anything like that, people shouldn’t panic buy food or fuel or anything else, that’s not what this is about.
‘This is about stock outs, it’s about shortages, it’s about a normal supply chain being disrupted.’
He said a ‘very short-term’ measure would be to allow drivers onto the shortage occupation list and ‘seasonal visas’ for foreign drivers.
Richard Walker, the managing director of Iceland, said the supermarket chain was around 100 drivers short of what it needed and echoed the call for a temporary change to immigration rules.
‘I think the solution – even if it’s temporary – is very, very simple. Let’s get HGV drivers onto the skilled worker list,’ he said.
The Transport Secretary, appearing alongside Mr Walker on Question Time, said ‘if that was actually the solution I’m sure we’d move to it very quickly and I don’t rule out anything’.
But ‘this is a global problem, it has come directly as a consequence of coronavirus’.
The Government has moved to streamline the testing system and Mr Shapps promised an extra 50,000 tests a year.
Labour’s shadow justice secretary David Lammy said: ‘What we are looking at is a winter of discontent. We have shortages of staff, shortages of supply and shortages of skills.’
A Government spokeswoman said: ‘There is no shortage of fuel in the UK, and people should continue to buy fuel as normal.’

It comes as the UK’s Agriculture Secretary George Eustice has indicated that the government is preparing to extend a seasonal worker scheme to tackle labour shortages across food production. The scheme could also be extended to include other industries suffering from labour shortages. 
Yesterday BP said it will restrict deliveries of fuel because of a lack of HGV drivers, which has also impacted supermarkets and raised fears of food and even toy shortages over the Christmas period. 
The oil giant is understood to have informed the Government that its ability to transport petrol and diesel from its refineries is being heavily impacted by the supply chain crisis. 
BP’s Head of UK Retail, Hanna Hofer, told the Cabinet Office last Thursday that it was important that the Government understood the ‘urgency of the situation’ which she branded ‘bad, very bad’.
Ms Hofer warned that the company had ‘two thirds of normal forecourt stock levels required for smooth operations’ and that levels were ‘declining rapidly’. The restricting of deliveries is expected to begin ‘very soon’. 
Meanwhile, there have been reports of Tesco petrol stations closing or running out of fuel in Dorset, the Isle of Wight and Devon, however it is believed that the incidents of shortages are only affecting two sites. ExxonMobil, which operates Esso, added that some of its 200 Tesco Alliance sites were affected.
A Tesco spokesperson however said supermarkets still had a ‘good availability of fuel, with deliveries arriving at our petrol filling stations across the UK every day.’ 
However one petrol station owner told BBC Radio 4 she had already run out of fuel once. Lisa Stevenson, owner of the Tolladine Service Station in Worcester, told the Today Programme: ‘My order was supposed to come on Thursday last week, it didn’t arrive. 
‘My distributor said it would be delivered on Friday, he then phoned me back said ‘unfortunately we have a lack of drivers’ and that it won’t be delivered until Monday.’
Asked if she had run out of petrol at that point, she said: ‘We did indeed yes.’ Asked if it would happen again, she said: ‘Most definitely, as we come into the winter.’  
Meanwhile, at the Shell garage on A12 near Marks Tey, Essex, the forecourt was said to be completely out of diesel on Friday morning.
Further down the A12, at the BP garage at Rivenhall, near Kelvedon, Essex, cars were queuing three deep at every pump on Friday morning and staff at the garage said it was almost out of diesel.
They were hoping for a delivery today or tomorrow but were not sure if they would get one, and said they had never seen the garage as busy
‘People are definitely packing it in’, one driver said.
One woman in Surrey told the Sun she had witnessed an ‘old guy’ squeeze £2.65 worth of fuel into his tank ‘before it overflowed onto the floor’. 
However motorists and shoppers have been urged not to panic buy fuel and goods, with a Government spokeswoman saying: ‘There is no shortage of fuel in the UK, and people should continue to buy fuel as normal.’ 
Gerald Ronson, owner of almost 300 Rontec – BP, Texaco and forecourts across the country, told The Telegraph he expects fuel court disruption to last for more than four weeks.
He said: ‘With everybody coming back to work – more cars on the road because people don’t want to use buses or trains – this has drained a lot of fuel.’ 
The news is the latest sign of the UK struggling to cope because of an ongoing shortage of HGV drivers which comes alongside a worsening energy crisis.  
Mr Shapps said he hoped the issue would ‘smooth out very quickly’ after the Government introduced changes to tests. 
He told Sky News: ‘The problem is not new there’s been a lack of drivers actually for many months during this pandemic because as your report said during the lockdown drivers couldn’t be passed through their lorry/HGV tests and that’s what’s been the problem.
‘But many more tests are being made available now so we should see it smooth out very quickly.
On short term visas, he said: ‘I’ll look at everything we can and we’ll move heaven and earth to make sure shortages are alleviated.’ 
Source: Source: Mail Online

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