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UK Supply Networks

Volume 708: debated on Thursday 3 February 2022

9. What recent discussions he has had with representatives of (a) haulage companies and (b) other companies involved in the goods supply chain on disruption in the UK's supply networks. (905405)

The Road Haulage Association estimates a shortfall of some 85,000 drivers, affecting supply chains, retailers and the wider economy, while the Government’s short-length temporary visa scheme has been unfit for purpose, with only 200 visas having been issued. Given the scale of the problem, the industry is asking for a 12-month visa for heavy goods vehicle drivers. Will the Minister confirm whether that is being considered?

The Government have taken decisive action on the HGV driver shortage, with 32 short, medium and long-term interventions. We have more than doubled the number of tests available for HGV drivers in a normal week from 1,500 weekly appointments pre-covid to 3,200 in a normal week now. I am pleased to hear from industry bodies that their current assessment is that the shortfall in drivers is lessening.

That may well be the case, but one haulier has likened Brexit to

“death by a thousand cuts”,

as EU companies withdraw business due to each new round of post-Brexit bureaucracy, administration and delays. That is causing significant hardship for many UK and Scottish businesses; smaller ones, especially, are struggling to cope. After the UK implements import controls in July, the crisis will deepen further, with the current miles-long queues of HGVs on the A20 simply getting longer and longer. What are the Government doing to mitigate the damage they have inflicted with Brexit on the UK’s economy?

I know that the hon. Gentleman likes to blame Brexit for everything, but of course there are HGV driver shortages around the globe. On freight coming in and out of the UK, we are seeing similar numbers at the moment as we would normally. The checks that are due at the ports are on track in England. Of course, in Scotland, they are a matter for the devolved Administration. We are aware of some risks there, but the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and other Departments are working closely with the Scottish Government to find a resolution.