Mark Drakeford: UK Government's short term visas for HGV drivers is 'exploitative'
The First Minister says the UK Government's attempt to solve lorry driver shortages with short term visas is “exploitative” and will not solve the problems.
During his weekly question session in the Senedd, Mark Drakeford said the shortages are a problem of the Conservative UK Government’s own making because “they took us out of the European Union.”
“The idea that people are going to be willing to uproot themselves and come back and work in this country for a matter of weeks only to be told by the UK Government they will be discarded again on Christmas Eve when they no longer have any use for them - it’s simply, well the arrogance of it is, breathtaking. But it just isn’t going to work.”
In the longer term, he said that a Welsh Government scheme has been trying to increase the number of HGV drivers, training 800 new drivers since 2015.
“We are doing our bit here in Wales to grow domestic capacity in that area. That is not going to be a solution for the short term problems but neither is a scheme that is so exploitative of others that there is no prospect at all that it is can deliver what is needed.”
Earlier the Finance Minister said the Welsh Government was not yet looking at introducing priority lists for healthcare workers and those in education and other critical services.
Rebecca Evans said: "We are having frequent, at least several times a day conversations with our local government partners but also with the Cabinet Office and the Department for Business, Environment and Industrial Strategy in the UK Government about the situation regarding fuel at the moment.
“We do have a national fuel plan which could prioritise certain individuals or groups but we haven’t invoked that yet because we understand that the system will get itself back into kilter shortly. So as I say we’re having continued discussions with the UK Government and our local resilience fora as well to ensure that the situation is managed.”
Speaking on Monday at the Labour Party conference in Brighton, Mark Drakeford also said that ministers and officials are considering convening an emergency group to bring relevant authorities together to deal with the crisis.
"One of the great things we have on our side in Wales is that we can usually do things quickly. There's not many people you have to contact; we can do that as quickly as is necessary.
"We need to understand before we do the basis from which we will be working, what is the UK government's plan, how do they intend to deal with the crisis that they have, they have presided over in one of the most basic things that our country has to rely on to keep going."
A UK Government spokesperson said:
“We have announced further measures to help further ease supply chain pressures and spikes in localised demand for fuel, including the putting on standby a pool of military drivers and extension to specific HGV licences, an immediate increase in HGV testing, short term visas for HGV drivers and new skills bootcamps to train up to 3,000 more people to become HGV drivers.
“The measure to make available 5,000 visas for HGV drivers for a three-month period will provide short-term relief for the haulage industry and is only temporary – visas will not be the long-term solution and reform within the industry is vital.”