Ministers have been told that just 27 fuel tanker drivers have applied to work in the UK from the EU through the government’s emergency visa scheme which is designed to fix the country’s petrol shortages, according to a report.
The Times has reported that there has been little interest in the visas available for HGV drivers in the fuel industry, raising questions over how many people will actually come to the UK to fill vacancies.
Earlier this week, the government announced that 300 fuel drivers would be allowed to come to the UK from overseas “immediately” and stay until March, while a further 4,700 visas for foreign food truck drivers will be allowed from later this month until the end of February.
There are now concerns among ministers that the failure to recruit drivers will lead to further delays in restocking service stations and to the government having to rely on the army for assistance for longer, according to The Times.
“People don’t want to come unless it is a really attractive alternative,” Rod McKenzie, director of policy at the Road Haulage Association, told the newspaper.
“You don’t give up a well-paid job for a better-paid job if it will only last a few months.”
It came after health secretary Sajid Javid insisted on Saturday that he was “confident” that workers would come to the UK.
“Of course there is competition for drivers – that’s taking place throughout Europe - but it is important that we try to do what we can,” Mr Javid told Sky News.
“I am confident with the temporary visa changes that have been announced we will get more drivers.”
On Monday, industry leaders warned that there would be gaps on supermarket shelves this Christmas due to shortages as chancellor Rishi Sunak argued that he could not “wave a magic wand” to make the supply chain problems go away.
“We're seeing supply disruption, not just here but in lots of different places, and there are things we can try and mitigate, and we are,” Mr Sunak told BBC Radio 4’s Today show.
“But we can't wave a magic wand. There's nothing I can do about the decision by a country in Asia to shut down a port because of a coronavirus outbreak.”
About 200 military personnel - half of them drivers - have been deployed to help deliver petrol to forecourts as about 22 per cent of filling stations in London and the southeast reportedly still do not have fuel.
Additional reporting by PA
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