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Transport and Logistics: Labour Shortages

Volume 705: debated on Thursday 16 December 2021

10. What recent discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on tackling labour shortages in the transport and logistics sectors. (904790)

The Government have taken decisive action to address the acute HGV driver shortage, with 32 specific measures that have been taken. As Logistics UK, the main industry haulier body has said, this has reduced the crisis as we have started to see more HGV drivers on the road.

The Government may have taken decisive action in their own eyes, but it does not seem to be having the desired effect, because the temporary visas issued by the Government in the latter part of this year have failed to attract even 10% of the open visa spaces. Given that the rest of Europe also has an HGV driver shortage, will the Secretary of State accept that the UK Government need to make our visa package for HGV drivers more attractive to EU drivers in order to help quell the domestic driver shortage?

I do not accept that. The hon. Gentleman actually highlights the problem, which is that the rest of Europe—indeed, the rest of the world—has a very significant HGV driver shortage. Simply trying to take from another part of the market that is already massively restricted is not the answer. We do not think that issuing visas is the right way forward. I know that the Leader of the Opposition called for 100,000 visas to be issued for HGV drivers. That is not our approach. These 32 measures are seeing vastly more people coming into HGV driving, with more than 1,350 more tests each week compared with pre-pandemic levels.

I have to say that we on the Labour Benches are not feeling the Christmas love from the Secretary of State today. Neither have we been invited to his last couple of Christmas parties, but we will wait to hear more on that. Perhaps, after the Sunday Times article, he should spend a little less time defending the rights of private airstrips where he can land his plane and a little more time sorting out the estimated 90,000 shortage of HGV drivers, which is holding our economy back. So here is some helpful advice: will he finally act to back Labour’s plans to appoint a Minister for the supply chain crisis, boost driver recruitment and retention, and secure agreement with the EU, particularly after the news on France today, to prevent future import controls at ports worsening the situation?

The hon. Gentleman attacks aviation, but Labour does not understand: the Department for Transport is about all forms of transport. We support all the different forms of transport, no matter what they are. He makes reference to the HGV crisis, not understanding that freight both by rail and by air is all part of that, and he does not seem to understand how cargo moves around the world. In relation to his point on the supply chain, which is a very serious one, I can confirm that I have spoken to my French opposite number, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, who has confirmed that although France is bringing in additional controls on movement to France, it will not include hauliers in those measures.