UK government says it is not responsible for preventing Christmas shortages

Free market Conservative Liz Truss says UK is not a ‘command economy’

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
,Adam Forrest
Sunday 03 October 2021 18:25
Comments
<p>Rolling shortages have hit the UK economy in recent months </p>

Rolling shortages have hit the UK economy in recent months

The UK government is not responsible for making sure there are no shortages in shops at Christmas, a top cabinet minister has said.

Speaking on the first day of Tory conference in Manchester Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, said the UK was a "free enterprise economy" and suggested the government was not in control.

It comes after Labour leader Keir Starmer claimed the shortages hitting the UK were a "crisis made in Downing Street" which had been "created by this Prime Minister’s incompetence".

Economists blame the prime minister's decision to leave the EU single market and end free movement for economic disruption hitting the UK.

A shortage of lorry drivers has has caused knock-on supply problems for goods on the shelves and notably for fuel, which needs to be delivered by tanker.

And there are concerns that shortages of some goods could become worse as Christmas looms.

But Ms Truss, a staunch free-marketer, told an event on the fringes of the conference: "I don't believe in a command and control economy, so I don't believe the Prime Minister is responsible for what's in the shops.

"This is why we have a free enterprise economy, I'm sure that the goods will be delivered into our shops."

Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds said the government had been “in power for over a decade”, adding :”Liz Truss would be better off accepting that Tory incompetence has fuelled this chaos and urging her colleagues to sort it out, rather than trying to disavow her own government's ability to run the economy."

And Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooker said: “Businesses, drivers and trade bodies have been warning Boris Johnson for months this crisis would happen if urgent action was not taken. Instead of listening and acting, he put his fingers in his ears and hoped the problem would magically go away.

“Liz Truss is fooling nobody with these comments. We should have had a new visa scheme in place weeks ago and readied the army much sooner. Boris Johnson owes the British people an apology. With the county literally running on vapours, basic competence is in short supply.”

Ms Truss claimed the economy had “under-invested in capital” because there was “a supply of relatively affordable workers to do jobs in this country”.

She added: “People said free movement of people wasn’t depressing wages. That clearly isn’t true and we’ve seen the results.”

The foreign secretary who was recently promoted from her previous job as international trade secretary, also appeared to downplay hopes of a trade deal with the US – previously her primary objective.

She said an agreement with Joe Biden's administration was not the "be all and end all" and suggested the UK could focus on other countries.

"I don't agree with you that that's the be all and end all of trade," she told the same event on Sunday in Manchester, at the start of the Tories four-day conference.

"My message to the Americans is 'we're ready when you are ready' but there's a whole world out there, there are lots of fast-growing parts of the world who want to do business with Britain and there's a full pipeline of trade deals we are negotiating."

The previous US president, Donald Trump, was understood to be more positive about a trade deal with the UK than his successor Mr Biden.

In her main conference speech to the floor of conference, Ms Truss suggested wealthy and eco-friendly countries are less likely to harbour terrorists.

"The freer a country is, the wealthier it is, the more secure it is, the greener it is," she said

"It is less likely to harbour terrorists and radical fundamentalists, it is less likely to have huge migration outflows, and less likely to go to war."

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