// Next boss Lord Wolfson slam the government’s immigration system and calls on the Home Office to allow more HGV drivers to work in the UK
// Iceland boss Richard Walker has also been vocally critical of the government,
Next boss Lord Wolfson has labelled the government’s immigration policy “insane” and said that retail “desperately needs drivers” in order to stop the ongoing crisis.
The retail boss and Conservative peer hit out at the government’s points-based immigration system and called on the Home Office to change the rules to allow more heavy-goods vehicle (HGV) drivers to work in the UK amid ongoing shortages and disruption.
“It strikes me as being insane that despite the fact that everyone knows that we desperately need drivers, the Home Office are still preventing people coming to this country to work as drivers,” he told LBC.
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Reluctant to blame Brexit for the crisis having backed it himself, Wolfson said: “I personally don’t think that’s the problem with Brexit, I think it’s the problem with the way in which our immigration system is being run.”
The Next boss added: “I think there’s an enormous difference between having control over your immigration system, which I think we should have, and running that system well, which I’m not sure that we are.”
The effects of the ongoing driver shortage have been felt throughout the summer as many supermarket shelves have been left empty.
Iceland boss Richard Walker has been vocally critical of the government, and warned the ongoing crisis could lead to Christmas being “cancelled” for some families, while The Entertainer chief executive Gary Grant has warned of reduced toy ranges.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates that up to 20,000 HGV drivers from the EU left during the Brexit process – adding to a crisis which has left the country short of at least 90,000 drivers in all.
When asked if he would welcome European HGV drivers returning to the UK, Wolfson said: “Well not necessarily just European countries. I think we should be welcoming all people who want to work, who want to contribute to our economy and who have skills that we desperately need.”
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and RHA have pleaded with the government to put haulage driving on the shortage occupation list so overseas drivers can apply for visas on a temporary basis.
Logistics UK and the BRC have also called on ministers to offer temporary visas to EU drivers.
However, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng wrote back to industry leaders on Friday telling them foreign workers offered only “a short-term, temporary solution” to the shortage. “I am sure you would agree on the importance of utilising the strength of our domestic workforce,” he said.