Boris Johnson must take 'emergency' action and recall Parliament to deal with lorry driver shortage, says Sir Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer has called on Boris Johnson to take “emergency” action to address the shortage of lorry drivers which, he said, was threatening to ruin Christmas.

The Labour leader said the Prime Minister should if necessary recall Parliament to rush through legislation to ensure the shelves remain stocked in the run up to the festive season.

His call on the eve of the Tory Party conference in Manchester came after UK policing minister Kit Malthouse said it could take another “week or so” to resolve the fuel crisis, with long queues at continuing in some parts of the country.

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This followed warnings of shortages across the economy, from retailers to meat producers, unless immigration rules were relaxed to admit seasonal workers from abroad.

Queues at a petrol station on Great Western Road in Glasgow earlier this week

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In a statement, Sir Keir said that a scheme to issue 5,000 temporary visas to foreign lorry drivers would not be up and running “for weeks”.

He said the government needed to take swift action if it was to prevent the problems hitting the fuel industry spreading to other sectors.

“I don’t want people in this country to have another Christmas ruined by this Prime Minister’s lack of planning,” he said.

“Every day wasted is prolonging this crisis. The government has been talking about issuing visas, but still hasn’t done anything.

“The Prime Minister should be taking emergency action today, but yet again he’s failed to grasp the seriousness of the crisis.

“If it needs legislation, then let’s recall Parliament to get these emergency measures through urgently. The Prime Minister needs to get a grip.”

Parliament is suspended for party conference season.

The call by Sir Keir for a recall just as the Conservatives are holding their annual gathering is likely to be dismissed by ministers as a political manoeuvre.

Mr Malthouse had earlier said there was still strong demand for fuel in some parts of the country and that Mr Johnson would have to review the situation if it deteriorated further.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “We are still seeing strong demand in parts of the country around fuel, albeit that there is no problem of supply into the country. The distribution mechanism is trying to respond to this unprecedented demand.

“My latest briefing is that the situation is stabilising, that we are seeing more forecourts with a greater supply of fuel and hopefully that, as demand and supply come better into balance over the next few days – week or so – that we will see a return to normality.

“I think if things started to deteriorate further, obviously the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Energy, whose responsibility this is, will have to review the situation.”

His comments came as Lord Alan Sugar warned that continuing concerns about fuel shortages were “just the tip of the iceberg” and businesses would be further affected post-Brexit.

The Apprentice star claimed the shortage of HGV drivers and reports of long queues at the pumps in some parts of the country were the result of leaving the European Union.

He also criticised Michael Gove and the Prime Minister for telling what he described as “lies” in order to gain votes during the 2016 referendum.

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