Sir Keir Starmer has called on the government to take “emergency action to get a grip” on the HGV driver shortage causing fuel and food shortages.
The Labour leader said the prime minister needs to deploy the 150 army drivers that are on standby now to petrol stations across the UK after an independent fuel retailers’ group warned more than a quarter of its member filling stations are still empty.
He wants the government to ask petrol stations with fuel to extend their opening hours to help NHS shift workers and other critical staff.
Sir Keir has also called on Boris Johnson to recall parliament so short-term visas for drivers from Europe can be issued now to ensure there is a plan to secure supply chains for the winter.
The Labour leader wants the prime minister to hold an emergency summit with the road haulage industry, training providers, affected business groups, government ministers and transport unions “to focus on the immediate crisis and on finally addressing the pay, terms, training, licensing and conditions of drivers”.
Sir Keir said the driver shortage issue will continue to return in different sectors if not sorted out and he did not want “people in this country to have another Christmas ruined by this prime minister’s lack of planning”.
He also said the short-term visa scheme announced by the government will not be up and running for weeks so the first HGV drivers would only be on the roads in November.
“The prime minister should be taking emergency action today but yet again he’s failed to grasp the seriousness of the crisis,” Sir Keir added.
“If it needs legislation, then let’s recall parliament to get these emergency measures through urgently.
“The prime minister promised to save Christmas last year and we all know that went disastrously wrong.
“Now he’s making the same empty promises again. Boris Johnson was warned about this crisis and he did nothing about it.
“He had the chance to make a plan but ignored it. The prime minister needs to get a grip.”
On Thursday, government minister Simon Clarke said the fuel crisis was under control and more fuel was being delivered than being taken out, but some regions are still experiencing long queues and closed pumps as drivers cannot get enough fuel.
He called on motorists to return to normal fuel purchasing patterns and said that would solve the problem.