Labour calls for Ministers to get a grip on supply chain chaos to protect economic recovery

Labour has called for the Government to adopt a 5-point plan to tackle supply chain disruption, including establishing a minister with responsibility for tackling worker and supply shortages, and working with business and unions to improve terms and conditions in key sectors.

The party is warning the Government that it must get a grip on the chaos and disruption hitting British businesses and supply chains or risk the country’s economic recovery, empty shelves and consumers being hit in their pockets.

Around a quarter of manufacturing and retail businesses have seen extra costs due to additional transportation costs, and figures this week showed that shop prices rose last month.

The supply chain disruption, caused by increased barriers at the border, worker shortages following the end of the transition period and long-standing issues around terms and conditions in key sectors like HGVs, as well as global supply shortages as a result of the Covid crisis, were completely foreseeable. Yet having been repeatedly warned by business about looming driver shortages, the Conservatives dismissed concerns as “crying wolf”.

Labour has slammed the Government’s failure to prepare for the disruption, including their failure to boost employment and raise standards in key sectors like transport and logistics.

The Government has overseen a chronic weakening of the foundations of Britain’s skills system and a boom in poor employment conditions, creating the conditions for the current crisis.

The impact is being felt across the economy and hitting consumers, with shops cancelling deliveries because of driver shortages, running out of goods and issuing stark warnings about serious Christmas disruption.

Labour is calling for the Government to act urgently with a clear plan to solve the acute supply chain crisis:  

  1. Appoint a government minister with specific responsibility for tackling the supply chain crisis and coordinating across multiple government departments.
  2. Set up a taskforce to work sector by sector to identify gaps and recruit into key roles. This should include rapidly expanding testing for HGV drivers, and part or wholly funding HGV training drawing on available funding for targeted sectors. The Government should also support 100,000 new apprentices this financial year to help boost employment in key sectors.
  3. Bring together business and unions to address long-term issues of wages and conditions in key sectors to agree improved terms and conditions, recognising that the Government’s belief in a low-wage, insecure labour market is key to the crisis we are seeing.
  4. Refer the issue of adding HGV drivers to the Shortage Occupation List to the Migration Advisory Committee to provide advice to government to help address the crisis in the short-term, given warnings from businesses about the risk to Christmas trade.
  5. Limit further disruption to supply chains from the planned introduction of initial food import controls on October 1st by working to secure an urgent veterinary agreement with the European Union.

Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, Ed Miliband MP, said:

“The Government must get a grip on the supply chain crisis facing our economy. While they act as if the problem will solve itself, businesses are telling government these problems are only going to grow. The serious disruption and added costs risk harming our recovery and passing costs to consumers.

“Ministers have a habit of ignoring warnings and shifting the burden of blame to businesses. But it is their undermining of our country’s skills training system, failure to deliver on their promise to cut barriers facing businesses and belief in an insecure labour market with poor terms and conditions that has created this crisis.

“The long-term problems in the HGV sector will not be solved by making drivers work longer hours but by training workers and improving their terms and conditions. What we are seeing across our economy should be a wake-up call to government that insecurity and low pay cannot build the high performing economy we need.

“It’s time for the Prime Minister to take this situation seriously and appoint a minister to work across government and come up with a clear plan with businesses and unions to improve wages and conditions in key sectors. Any responsible government would act to sort out the problems firms are facing. This is what Britain’s businesses, workers and consumers have a right to expect.”

This article was first published on the 3rd September 2021 at

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