Sky News’ Trevor Phillips has Shapps squirming over ‘shabby’ HGV shortage response
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The Sky News host challenged Mr Shapps with a letter he wrote to MPs last month in which he objected to the use of foreign workers to avoid disruption to the delivery of goods in the UK. The Transport Secretary announced on Saturday emergency visas will now be provided to up to 5,000 HGV drivers from the continent after fear of petrol running out pushed hundreds to queue to fill up their tank. Trevor Phillips asked Mr Shapps: “Isn’t it a little shabby to be blaming everybody else when, actually, this arises out of a choice you yourself made?
“On August 5, you wrote a group of MPs saying, and I’m quoting from your letter, ‘I do not support using foreign labour to tackle a long-standing issue in the haulage industry.’
“You were very specific that you did not want this to happen. You made a choice.
“Isn’t it a little shabby now to be basically saying it’s everybody else’s fault when you made that choice?”
The Transport Secretary dismissed the accusations, saying he stood by his assessment that the issues the UK is facing in regards to shortages of drivers cannot be resolved by simply importing foreign workers.
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He said: “I do not believe, as I said in that letter, that the long-term solution to Britain’s shortages of HGV drivers is to say the only choice we have is to import European drivers, undercut British salaries and not skill up to do the job here in the United Kingdom.
“That’s absolutely right.
“I also recognize, and am completely pragmatic about this, that we need to ensure that people are reassured.”
He continued: “(The package) is not just those visas, which is very short term, it is also the big bottleneck where there are plenty of people who know how to drive a lorry but where they need to get tested or re-tested; the DVSA – that’s the testing agency – has had this massive restriction.
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“You might say, ‘well, why haven’t you acted on that post-Covid?’ Well, in fact, we have. We reopened that testing back in April, we’ve managed to double the capacity, partly by using freedoms we’ve got outside of the EU to change the way the driving tests work, to get more capacity to get more tests through.
“Bringing in the Army will be a very significant assistance there as well and that way we can get more people tested and on to the roads.
“So visas is only one element of it, testing is very much front and centre.
“And then, of course, there is this appeal for people who already drive to realise that actually, the salaries now for driving lorries has gone up tremendously.
“We think that is a good thing, we think there have been too many years of people being undercut to do a decent day’s work, and the fact people will be paid properly in this industry is something that will help in the long term, and is actually what is required to have this industry sustainable in the long term without having to constantly import labour, which is what has happened up until now.”
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