The Department for Transport has announced a temporary visa scheme, expected to run from October to 24th December, in order to alleviate HGV driver shortages.
Around 5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers will be permitted to come to the UK for three months on a temporary visa following fuel and retail delivery problems.
The Government stated that it hoped this move “would provide short-term relief for the haulage industry” and “avoid any potential further pressures on the food industry during this exceptional period”.
In addition to this, the Department for Education has further announced a £10 million new skills bootcamp scheme to train 3,000 people to become HGV drivers.
This announcement comes amid widespread fuel shortages caused by a lack of HGV drivers to deliver the fuel.
Mr. Kwarteng stated this would be a “short-term, temporary solution” and instead proposed using the domestic workforce coming off the furlough scheme at the end of September to fill these roles.
This was still a sentiment echoed by the Government during the announcement of this new temporary visa scheme.
The Government maintained that employers should make “long-term investments” in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on overseas labour to build a high-wage, high-skill economy.
In particular, the Government felt that improved testing and hiring as well as better pay, working conditions and diversity could encourage more workers to join the industry.
Elizabeth de Jong, Logistics UK’s Director of Policy, responded to this change in policy:
Logistics UK welcomes the government package of measures aimed at improving the ongoing driver crisis.
The government’s decision to grant 5,000 temporary visas for HGV drivers to help in the short term is a huge step forward; we are so pleased the government has listened to our calls and has made this bold decision to support the UK economy.
However, other industry bodies have warned that these measures do not extend far enough.
Matthew Fell, CBI Chief Policy Director, said:
Tackling labour shortages requires a concerted effort from both business and government.
While the government has finally used levers at its disposal, the limited scope of this announcement has surprised many.
Businesses are playing their part. Latest CBI data shows almost 7 in 10 firms are planning pay rises. Many are stepping up investment in training, widening talent pools and doubling down on investment in digital and automation.
Yet the scale of the challenges facing businesses on multiple fronts underlines the need for a COBR-like Cabinet Committee for recovery, enabling much faster action to alleviate short-term pressures.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, also added the limit of 5,000 visas would “do little to alleviate the current shortfall.”