Evening Standard Comment: Ministers should have seen HGV crisis coming

·1-min read
 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

The fuel shortage is biting in the capital. While Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Sunday morning that there was “plenty of fuel”, this was true in only a strictly narrow sense.

The issue is not a lack of fuel, but the HGV drivers to deliver it to the forecourts. By yesterday evening, it was hardly correct by any definition. A survey of members by the Petrol Retailers Association found that 50 to 85 per cent of independent service stations, excluding the motorway network, had run out of fuel.

The Prime Minister is reportedly preparing to bring in the army, yet this can only be a short-term solution. The Government has announced it is to offer temporary work visas to 5,000 foreign hauliers in the run-up to Christmas. This may help to end the immediate squeeze, but industry says it is not nearly enough.

The shortfall in HGV drivers — around 100,000 — did not arise overnight. While panic buying is the ultimate cause of the weekend’s events, it is merely the straw the broke the camel’s back.

Ministers should have seen it coming and be addressing skills shortages across the economy. They were warned about HGV drivers, and we have seen the impact of a lack of workers in sectors across the economy for months.

But they have allowed a supply chain squeeze to metastasize into a full-blown crisis. We cannot go on like this to Christmas, with a lack of basic commodities.

When the panic subsides, the Government needs to get a grip and take the urgent decisions necessary to ensure the British economy does not run empty.

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