Grant Shapps says he doesn’t want to ‘undercut’ British workers
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Grant Shapps today said the queues and closures at fuel stations were a “manufactured situation” and a Government source has pointed to the Road Haulage Association (RHA) led by Remainer and ex-BBC chief Rod McKenzie. The Transport Secretary accused “one of the the haulage associations” of leaking comments from BP bosses about supply concerns following a Cabinet Office meeting which took place last week.
Speaking to Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme, Mr Shapps said: “We need to ensure that people are reassured now that this rather manufactured situation has been created, because there’s enough petrol in the country.”
Asked who manufactured the situation, he added: “There was a meeting which took place about 10 days ago, a private meeting in which one of the haulage associations decided to leak the details to media, and that has created, as we have seen, quite a large degree of concern as people naturally react to those things.”
Government sources also told the Mail on Sunday the Association led by Mr McKenzie was “entirely responsible for this panic and chaos”.
They suggested the ex-BBC chief “weaponised” BP comments to deflect blame for the UK’s supply chaos.
But Mr McKenzie has dismissed the claims as “nonsense.”
He added: “I was not in the meeting.
“I was not briefed about the meeting afterwards. I certainly didn’t brief any journalists about the meeting about which I knew nothing.
“It is entirely without foundation.”
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Mr Shapps also today defended his foreign visa plans to solve the HGV driver shortage.
The Government announced a temporary visa scheme that will see 5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers brought in on three-month contracts to keep supermarket shelves stocked with turkeys and tackle fuel delivery difficulties.
Mr Shapps admitted he had done something he “didn’t necessarily want to do” in allowing foreign workers to fill the workforce gaps, having only on Friday rallied against the idea of temporary visas.
But he said the Government wanted to reassure the public amid long queues at the pumps.
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The Transport Secretary also said he was confident his offer of 5,000 visas would ease the “100 to 200” shortfall of fuel tanker drivers.
He predicted the pump queues would start to “resolve” themselves partly due to the difficulty in stockpiling petrol.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer suggested he would support enough visas being offered to fill every vacancy in the haulage industry.
Asked on BBC Andrew Marr whether he would support bringing in 100,000 foreign drivers to match the shortage, Sir Keir said: “We are going to have to do that.
“We have to issue enough visas to cover the number of drivers that we need.”
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