Sep 1, 2021
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Next boss Wolfson slams "insane" UK policy on lorry driver shortage

Sep 1, 2021

Lord Wolfson, the chief executive of high street retail giant Next, has blamed the government’s “insane” immigration policy for the major shortage of heavy-goods vehicle (HGV) drivers hitting Britain’s supply chain hard.

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He has called on the Home Office to change the rules to allow more foreign HGV drivers to work in the UK as major gaps in the supply chain were accelerating shortages and disruption.

The Conservative peer and Brexit supporter said: “It strikes me as being insane that despite the fact that everyone knows that we desperately need drivers, the Home Office are still preventing people coming to this country to work as drivers,” he told LBC.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates the UK is short of at least 90,000 drivers. It said up to 20,000 HGV drivers from the EU had already left during the Brexit process.

However, Lord Wolfson pointed the finger at the way the immigration system operates rather than blame Brexit for the crisis.

The Next boss added: “I think there’s an enormous difference between having control over your immigration system, which I think we should have, and running that system well, which I’m not sure that we are.

“I think also we need to look at the policies that we have going forward to make sure that people who want to come and work in Britain, have the skills that we need, can get here”.

Asked if he would welcome the return of drivers from the EU, he also said: “Well not necessarily just European countries. I think we should be welcoming all people who want to work, who want to contribute to our economy and who have skills that we desperately need”.

The RHA has urged  the government to put haulage driving on the shortage occupation list so overseas drivers can apply for visas on a temporary basis. Meanwhile, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Logistics UK have also called on ministers to offer temporary visas to EU drivers.

But business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng replied to industry leaders on Friday, saying foreign workers offered only “a short-term, temporary solution” to the shortage. “I am sure you would agree on the importance of utilising the strength of our domestic workforce,” Kwarteng replied.

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