Government can’t ‘wave a magic wand’ to solve supply chain problems – Sunak
There will be gaps on supermarket shelves this Christmas, industry executives have warned, as Rishi Sunak has said he cannot “wave a magic wand” to make supply chain problems go away. .
The chancellor said the government would do everything possible to “alleviate” global supply problems, but admitted there were disruptions and did not rule out Christmas being affected.
It comes as around 200 military personnel – half of whom are drivers – are deployed for the first time on the roads to help deliver gasoline to the forecourt.
About 22% of service stations in London and the South East still have no fuel, according to Petrol Retailers Association executive director Gordon Balmer.
And despite ministers insisting that the situation at the pump, which has seen panic queues and shopping, is easing, Operation Escalin was launched on Monday.
Members of the armed forces arrived at the Buncefield oil depot in Hemel Hempstead to help deliver fuel to petrol stations, with soldiers, in uniform and wearing face masks, spotted walking near the gates of the Hertfordshire oil storage terminal .
But Downing Street has said how quickly the crisis eases will depend on demand.
A number of industries are experiencing labor shortages, particularly in meat processing.
And it sparked warnings that Christmas favorites such as pigs in blankets may not be available to shoppers this year.
During a visit to a Network Rail site in Manchester with Mr Sunak on Monday, the Prime Minister said supply chain problems were “a function of the global economy, in particular the UK economy, coming back to life after Covid “.
“There is a shortage of truck drivers around the world, from Poland to the United States, and even in China, they are short of truck drivers,” he said.
And he added: “I think what we are seeing is the recovery of the economy.
“We now have the fastest growing economy in the G7 and I think we have an unemployment rate much lower than people expect, you have jobs being created all the time.
“What we want to see are high paying, highly skilled jobs and I think companies are doing a fantastic job investing in learning, investing in skills, and this is the way forward for the Kingdom. -United.
“On things like the trucking industry, the right thing to do is make work more attractive, invest in truck stops and also invest in higher wages.”
However, No 10 said there was no “strict deadline” for when the transition to the “high-wage, high-skill economy” promised by the prime minister would be completed.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said: “This is not something we would have a firm deadline for, given that it will cover a number of different sectors.
“Obviously what we’re going to want to do is support sectors when needed, to help make that transition like you see us doing with things like truck drivers now and other sectors like poultry. , for example. “
Earlier, Mr Sunak told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: ‘We are seeing supply disruptions, not just here but in many different places, and there are things we can try to do. ‘mitigate, and we are.
“But we can’t wave a magic wand. There is nothing I can do about an Asian country’s decision to close a port due to a coronavirus outbreak. “
Pig farmers protested outside the Conservative Party conference on Monday as industry leaders requested a Covid recovery visa to allow companies to recruit outside the UK.
Meanwhile, Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, said he was “surprised” that Mr Johnson appeared to ignore the problems facing pig farmers when questioned on Sunday at the BBC show Andrew Marr.
Mr Allen told Sky News Christmas turkeys are likely to come from the mainland this year due to labor shortages in Britain following Brexit, and added that some foods, such as pigs in blankets, may not be available.
“We’re not saying that there won’t be food on the table at Christmas, but we are struggling to prepare the food for the holiday – the pigs in blankets, the gammon fillet,” he said. he declares.
However, the president of the Morrisons supermarket said the concerns had been “slightly exaggerated”.
Andy Higginson told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “There are logistical issues right now and these are well publicized and slightly exaggerated.
“Supply chains in the UK are incredibly efficient and I’m sure we’ll be able to deliver a great Christmas to customers as we go through. “
The Prime Minister has repeatedly refused to rule out shortages in the wider economy in the run-up to Christmas.
In addition to an estimated deficit of 100,000 heavy truck drivers, companies, from meat producers to retailers, have warned of empty shelves if shortages are not addressed.
Mr Johnson acknowledged that the country was going through a “period of adjustment” after Brexit, which cut the EU’s labor supply.
But he insisted that he was not ready to resolve the situation by pulling “the great marked lever of uncontrolled immigration” to let in more foreign workers.
He said companies should make sure their employees are “decently paid” if they wish to hire more staff.