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Politics latest news: Military drivers being 'trained in the background', amid fears they lack skills to load fuel




  • In World
  • 2021-09-26 23:17:06Z
  • By The Telegraph
  • Plans for the Army to help ease mounting fuel crisis

  • Gas king gives Britain stark winter warning

  • ​Social Democratic Party narrowly wins in race to succeed Angela Merkel

  • Anti-Brexit haulage body 'behind fuel crisis leak'

  • Sir Keir Starmer declines to rule out income tax rise

  • Angela Rayner rebuked for branding Tories 'scum'

Military drivers are being "trained in the background" amid fears that they do not have the niche skills needed to load fuel.

Brian Madderson, the chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), said the use of Army to drive oil tankers, under plans being considered by Boris Johnson, would not be "an absolute panacea".

"Of course what we don't want is a crossover of petrol getting into a diesel tank, diesel getting into a petrol tank, because that has disastrous effects on the engine," Mr Madderson said.

"This is a skilled job and we will be working with Government and industry to see how we can best move it forward."

It comes before the Prime Minister will decide on Monday whether to call in soldiers to deliver fuel to petrol stations as "frenzied buying" added to fuel supply issues.

Five thousand three-month visas will be issued to foreign drivers in order to mitigate the shortage of drivers, while Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, confirmed the suspension of competition laws for the fuel sector.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

08:49 AM

Key workers can't get petrol after weekend of panic buying, says Sadiq Khan

Some care workers, NHS staff and taxi drivers are unable to fill up at petrol stations, London mayor Sadiq Khan has said.

London's bus network has enough fuel but the "shambolic situation" has meant that shortages are hitting petrol stations across the capital, he told Sky News.

"Our emergency services and our buses have enough and they have some in reserve, but we are hearing stories about care workers, people who work in hospitals who need their car to go to hospital, black cab drivers, private hire vehicle drivers not being able to fuel up and provide the services that our city needs but also to enable people to get to work," Mr Khan said.

"We are working with the DfT (Department for Transport) to do what we can to make sure we have fuel being provided particularly for those key workers across our city."

08:39 AM

Sadiq Khan on scumgate: I understand Angela's anger

Sadiq Khan has said he understands "Angela's anger", as the row over the language used by Labour's deputy leader continues.

Angela Rayner yesterday refused to apologise for calling senior Tories "scum" - although some colleagues have distanced themselves from her comments.

The Mayor of London told Sky News: "I understand Angela's anger and the passion it comes from... the criticism of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet is their failure to address the needs of those who are most vulnerable in our society."

He added: "Angela speaks in the way Angela speaks. It's not language I would use."

08:18 AM

Up to 40,000 driver applications going unprocessed, claims Petrol Retailers Association

The chairman of the Petrol Retailers' Association has doubled-down on his criticism of the DVLA (see 8:32am).

Brian Madderson told BBC Breakfast: "We understand there are as many as 40,000 HGV driver applications sitting on the desks in Swansea waiting to be processed.

"Now that is just ridiculous, and is just one of many issues that have arisen to create the driver shortage we have today.

"We heard yesterday at the Government meeting that some of the hauliers are desperate to have their drivers go back on the road, but because of the strict medical requirements they have had to submit details to Swansea and there's a lack of process."

08:12 AM

Tax system is 'stacked against the high street', says Labour

The tax system is "stacked against high street businesses", the shadow chancellor has said, ahead of a speech in which she sets out plans to rip up the business rates system.

Rachel Reeves told BBC Radio 4's Today: "I want taxes to be fair, efficient and I want them to support our high street businesses.

"We have got a situation at the moment where - in the first six months of this year, every single day - 50 high street businesses were closing. Four out of five businesses are saying that if the Government goes ahead with its business rates increase next spring then they will have to consider closing outlets.

"This is not a place that we want to be, people want thriving high streets in all of our communities.

"But at the moment the tax system is stacked against high street businesses and small businesses - they are paying more than their fair share of tax while some businesses are paying less than their fair share."

08:05 AM

Social Democratic Party narrowly wins in race to succeed Angela Merkel

Germany is facing months of uncertainty after the centre-left Social Democrats narrowly won their first national election since 2005 to end 16 years of conservative-led rule under Angela Merkel.

The Social Democrats' candidate Olaf Scholz, the outgoing vice chancellor and finance minister who pulled his party out of a years-long slump, said the outcome was "a very clear mandate to ensure now that we put together a good, pragmatic government for Germany".

But the closely fought race is not over yet.

Read more here

08:03 AM

Rachel Reeves: Brexit is 'obviously' factor in petrol crisis

Labour's Rachel Reeves has blamed Brexit for the current petrol and food crisis, saying it is "obviously a contributory factor".

The shadow chancellor told Sky News that while there were other factors at play, including structural workforce issues and the pandemic, Brexit had "cut off a supply of labour", which meant it was "contributing and adding to those problems".

She added: "To deny that flies in the face of reality."

The Government should stop "blaming others" for the shortage of HGV drivers, Ms Reeves said, adding: "They need to get a grip."

07:59 AM

Government 'negligent' and 'out of touch' on petrol crisis, says Labour

The Government is "out of touch" with people on petrol and food shortages, Labour's Rachel Reeves has said, as she accused ministers of being "negligent" in handling the crisis.

"We wrote to the Government several weeks ago now saying should urgently refer this to the Migration Advisory Committee and we have been talking to hauliers for the best part of a year now, because of emerging problems," the shadow chancellor told Sky News.

"The Government has been complacent and negligent and out of touch on these issues and the impact they are having on ordinary people and businesses."

07:55 AM

Government's temporary visa scheme will not 'do the trick' on petrol shortage, says Labour

The Government's plan to introduce 5,000 temporary visas to address the HGV driver shortage will not "do the trick", Labour's Rachel Reeves has said.

The shadow chancellor noted that there were 100,000 fewer HGV drivers in the country currently, but the Government was only planning to issue 5,000 visas, saying: "I am not convinced that will do the trick."

She added: "If the Army can help contribute that should happen, but there are more fundamental issues here.

"We need to be training more people up, getting people through that testing process and improve pay and conditions in the sector."

07:50 AM

'There is enough fuel for everyone': Logistics UK

Consumers must "keep calm" and stop panic-buying while the Government implements longer-term solutions to tackle HGV driver shortages, a trade body has said.

Elizabeth de Jong, policy director at trade association Logistics UK, told BBC Breakfast that although there is "enough fuel for everyone", the surge in buying petrol has "caused a very big problem".

She added: "I represent and have been dealing with the Government over the general shortage of HGV drivers, we have got a number of announcements there about increased tests, funding of new visas, so there are issues in the industry and some of these will take a while to resolve, some of these can be resolved, so a lot is being done, but we really need to keep calm, just as we did through Covid with toilet rolls, for this not to continue.

"There's the shorter-term panic-buying which if we go back to our normal amounts and almost relax our behaviour and bring it back to normal then that can calm down quite quickly."

07:41 AM

Any nationalisation must represent value for money, says shadow chancellor

Rachel Reeves has said the current fuel crisis is "not because of nationalisation or privatisation" as she insisted any renationalisations must represent value for money.

Ms Reeves insisted that Sir Keir Starmer was right to say that the Big Six energy companies would not be renationalised under a Labour administration.

"I'm a pragmatic sort of person. I want to do economic sense and do what is good value for taxpayers.

"I will get value for money for every pound of taxpayers' money that a Labour government spends."

07:32 AM

Shapps told to sort out DVLA's 'unacceptable performance' amid fuel shortage

Grant Shapps has been told to address the "unacceptable performance" of the DVLA, which is exacerbating the country's petrol crisis.

Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers' Association, told Sky News that the agency was "sitting on" 40,000 applications for HGV drivers' licences, which would be a more effective solution than alternative options - including sending in the Army - because of the training required.

"They have had strikes in Swansea, and working from home, but whatever is going on, it is a completely unacceptable performance," he said. "This is the responsibility of the Department of Transport, Grant Shapps' department. I wonder if he has ever been there to sort it out. "

Getting in the Army was "not quite as easy as you think, because HGV tanker drivers are a highly trained, specialised breed", so replacing them would require additional training.

Meanwhile attracting foreign drivers back from the EU would be problematic because there are "shortages across the continent". He also questioned "quite how many we can attract back for just three months" under the temporary visa plan as currently envisaged.

07:28 AM

Free movement is no longer Labour Party policy, confirms Rachel Reeves

Freedom of movement is no longer the policy of the Labour Party, the shadow chancellor has confirmed.

Ms Reeves said returning unlimited immigration from Europe would not solve the HGV crisis, despite backing Keir Starmer's proposals for 100,000 temporary visas for foreign truck drivers.

"People have voted to leave the EU and we need to move on," she told the Today programme. "At the moment it's just an ad hoc process."

Asked whether Labour no longer backed freedom of movement, Ms Reeves added: "When Keir ran to be party leader we hadn't at that stage left the EU or got a deal.

"We moved on, we voted for that deal last year… it was better than no deal. We're not going to bring back free movement under a Labour Government."

In spring 2020, Sir Keir pledged to "defend free movement as we leave the EU" as one of 10 policy promises during his Labour leadership campaign.

07:21 AM

Rachel Reeves supports Starmer's call for 100,000 lorry driver visas

Motorists "couldn't care less" about the nationality of Britain's HGV drivers, the shadow chancellor has said as she echoed Keir Starmer's calls to issue 100,000 visas to lorry drivers.

Rachel Reeves emphasised the need to train more Britons in the longer term but suggested there are currently not enough who would be willing to do the work.

"Right now we've got a situation where there are 100,000 too few HGV drivers and there aren't enough people who want to be driving those trucks and have the qualifications to do so," she told the Today programme.

"We've got to plug those gaps. People couldn't care less whether the HGV driver who gets the petrol to the forecourt is British or foreign. They want to fill up their car and go about their business."

More British workers should be trained up in the long-term and the migration advisory committee should be taking action on skills shortages, she added.

07:08 AM

Keir Starmer's HGV plan won't work, says union boss

Sir Keir Starmer's proposals to bring in 100,000 lorry drivers is "not going to address a fundamental long-term problem at the heart of the HGV crisis, a union boss has said.

"I am not convinced that issuing loads of visas is going to address the problem," Gary Smith, general-secretary of the GMB, told the Today programme.

"We have a short-term crisis, but there has to be a conversation about a country that is mired in low pay. We are paying for years of driving down working conditions."

The proposals being readied by the Government were a "sticking plaster" but the problems had been caused by a "race to the bottom" in pay and conditions, he said.

07:05 AM

Jeremy Corbyn backs Angela Rayner's 'way with words' in scumgate row

Angela Rayner has \"a way with words\", says Jeremy Corbyn - EPA
Angela Rayner has \"a way with words\", says Jeremy Corbyn - EPA  

Jeremy Corbyn has backed Labour's deputy leader in the row, after Angela Rayner called Tory voters "scum".

Her comments were yesterday disavowed by Sir Keir Starmer and Lucy Powell, the shadow housing secretary.

However the former party leader told BBC Radio 4 she was right, saying she "has a way with words and is right to be really strong in opposing what this Government has done.

"I am alarmed at levels of poverty in this society and horrified about the way racist attitudes are promoted against refugees," he added.

The now-independent MP also praised John McDonnell for describing Starmer's essay as "the sermon on the mount written by focus group", adding that the leader needs to "stop fiddling about with rule changes and constitution of the party, get out there and campaign".

07:01 AM

Whistleblower 'completely and utterly irresponsible' for leaking secret Government meeting

The whistleblower who leaked confidential comments made during a top-level Government was to blame for having sparked petrol panic buying over the weekend, which has resulted in average stock levels falling below 20 per cent.

Brian Madderson, the head of the UK Petrol Retailers Association, told Sky News that the whistleblower was "completely and utterly irresponsible", with his actions "immediately" sparking panic buying across the country. "

It was being entirely well maintained at that point by industry and Government, who were moving towards a solution," he added.

"We really didn't need this whistleblower to set off panic buying."

06:50 AM

Plans for the Army to help ease mounting fuel crisis

Boris Johnson will be asked to decide on Monday whether to sign off on plans to draft in the Army to help tackle Britain's mounting fuel crisis.

On Sunday, ministers discussed proposals to trigger Operation Escalin - a plan which would see "several hundred" soldiers brought in to drive petrol tankers - and are due to formally present the plans to the Prime Minister on Monday.

It comes after they were shown government figures suggesting that petrol stations across most of England had average stock levels below 20 per cent, enough for just one to two days.

While there is no shortage of fuel in the country, there have been problems getting it to filling stations because of a lack of HGV drivers and panic buying.

06:50 AM

Good Morning

We greet you from a rainy Brighton this morning, as we head into day two of the Labour Party conference.

But the storm clouds are not only gathering for Keir Starmer, as the Government grapples to keep the country on the road following several days of petro panic buying.

Here's today's front page.

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