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Supply Chain Issues

Volume 702: debated on Tuesday 2 November 2021

Current stresses on supply chains are a consequence of global factors; as economies around the world recover, demand is outstripping supply. Where it makes sense, we are taking action to support UK supply chains, such as increasing the supply of lorry drivers to help the haulage sector meet demand for deliveries.

Last week’s National Audit Office report on supply chain finance highlighted that huge contracts involving Greensill Capital, signed off by the Treasury, provided no benefits to the NHS. Does the Minister accept the NAO report, and will she ensure that in the future, contracts are properly awarded to avoid this kind of insidious lobbying?

I am sure that the Government will be responding to the NAO report in due course, but I can assure the hon. Member that the Treasury works very hard with the Department of Health and Social Care to make sure that funding for the NHS, which we are increasing substantially, goes to good use and improves care for patients.

Mr Speaker,

“energy price rises…increased evidence of supply bottlenecks …shortages in key occupations”.

Those are not my words but those of the Office for Budget Responsibility, which has issued a clear warning that the Government’s supply chain chaos will weigh on the recovery beyond its current forecast. Can the Minister help businesses and families prepare by explaining how much this chaos will cost the country this year?

I thank the hon. Member for her question. I do not agree with the picture that she paints. As I said earlier, there are global factors affecting challenges to the supply chain. We are providing support where it is appropriate. Specifically on energy costs, customers are already supported by the energy price cap, and we are providing £500 million extra help to households that need it during this winter.

The run-up to the festive period is a busy and crucial time for many businesses. They simply cannot afford delays in getting goods to warehouses from our ports, yet that is exactly what the logistics industry is warning that the shortage of heavy goods vehicle drivers is causing. Can the Minister guarantee that no presents will be missing from under the tree this Christmas because of her Government’s complete failure to plan ahead?

We are indeed taking steps to support the haulage sector, where there is a long-running situation with vacancies for HGV drivers. The action we have taken includes making available 5,000 temporary visas for the short term, increasing the number of tests available so that there is greater capacity for new drivers to take tests, changing cabotage restrictions, and funding improved facilities for drivers. In the longer term, we need to see both better pay and better conditions for lorry drivers.