Plaid Cymru MP calls on UK Government to act as HGV driver shortages reach breaking point

Plaid Cymru’s Brexit spokesperson, Hywel Williams MP, has today (Friday 24 September) called on the UK Government to “put their immigration clampdown ideology to one side” and add HGV drivers to the Shortage Occupations List. Doing so would make easier and faster for firms to hire drivers from abroad.

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.

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.

Hywel Williams MP said:

“Food shortages and higher prices. Delays to medical supplies putting pressure on our NHS. Petrol stations closing leading to panic buying across Britain. The supply chain crisis is reaching breaking point – yet the 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.

“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.”