Back-to-work Boris holds Cabinet meeting in the South West
15th October 2021

Now, about that Christmas crisis… Back-to-work Boris holds Cabinet meeting in the South West as he grapples with supply chain shambles and spiking cost of living

  • Boris Johnson is holding a Cabinet meeting in the South West after his holiday
  • The PM is returning to supply chain crisis and mounting fears over cost of living
  • Rules on foreign lorry drivers doing deliveries are being eased in a bid to cope  

Boris Johnson is holding a Cabinet away-day today as he returns from holiday amid mounting fears the supply chain shambles will wreck Christmas.

The PM is gathering with his senior ministers in the South West after returning from his break in Spain, where he relaxed with wife Carrie and son Wilf at a £25,000-a-week villa. 

But after a few days painting in the sunshine, Mr Johnson is confronted by more turmoil as he struggles to get a grip on the shortage of lorry drivers, delays at ports and surging energy prices.

With fears that the festive season could be blighted by logjams as the global economy recovers from Covid, panic buying of toys and other products already seems to have begun.

There has also been a surge in sales of frozen turkeys, while 75 per cent more Christmas puddings have been purchased than usual at this time of year.

Ministers have made some small changes to visa rules to allow in 5,500 HGV drivers, 5,000 workers in poultry processing and some 800 butchers to handle pigs and pork. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said this morning that foreign lorry drivers will be able to make unlimited pick-ups and drop-offs domestically in an effort to ease the pressure – but he admitted it would not come in until ‘towards the end of the year’.

‘That’s the equivalent of adding thousands of lorry drivers to the road, but we don’t have to do anything with visas in order to do this,’ he told Sky News.

‘It’s a straightforward measure, it’ll come in towards the end of the year.

Boris Johnson is gathering with his senior ministers in the South West after returning from his break in Spain, where he relaxed with wife Carrie and son Wilf at a £25,000-a-week villa

There have been complaints about empty shelves at Supermarkets as they struggle to get goods to the right places. Pictured, Leeds yesterday

The UK’s biggest port, Felixstowe, is experiencing huge workload as businesses scramble to get goods into the country

‘People will be able to get things for Christmas – these measures are having an impact, things are loosening up.

‘When I talk to ports they’re saying ‘yes, it is busy, it’s a globally busy picture’, but if you compare us to many ports around the world, we need to keep this in proportion – things are flowing.’

But Tim Morris, head of the Major Ports Group, which represents operators, said that despite the Government saying the supply chain crisis is getting better, we should not ‘fool ourselves’.

He told Sky News: ‘This week has seen improvements in what we call stack levels, so the amount of containers, for example, sat on the ground. But let’s not fool ourselves.

‘It has been an extraordinarily busy 12 months now.

‘And what we’ve seen over the last week, fortnight, have been some of the UK supply chain congestion issues sort of matching up and catching ports… between surging global demand and shipping and very congested inland here in the UK.’

Disruption at Britain’s ports threatens shortages of many products, with Ikea warning that supply problems could continue for another 12 months. 

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has warned that three in five retailers will be pushing up prices in the coming weeks.

Its director of food and sustainability, Andrew Opie, said: ‘There are clear signs that the cost pressures from rising transport costs, higher energy and commodity prices, and ongoing labour shortages, all of which are starting to filter through to consumer prices.’

He insisted the only way to stem increases is for the Government to change visa rules to allow in more foreign workers who are needed to fill vacancies across the economy.

The supply chain issues are adding to alarm that inflation is getting embedded in the economy, with analysts warning that the Bank of England will need to raise interest rates sooner than previously expected to get it under control.  

Mr Johnson will gather his Cabinet for a meeting away from Downing Street as he seeks to portray the UK as a beacon for green investment.

The PM will attempt to turn the focus on to the looming COP26 summit today, claiming a combination of Government support and a ‘British zeal for innovation and commerce’ have put the UK at the forefront of a green industrial revolution. 

Since November 2020, when Mr Johnson set out a 10-point plan for a greener economy, there has been some £5.8billion of investment either already landed by the UK or committed.

Downing Street said the investments already announced would create or secure 56,000 jobs.

Ahead of the UN summit in Glasgow, the Government is expected to publish its long-awaited net zero strategy, setting out how it will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Hailing the latest investment data, Mr Johnson said: ‘These new figures are yet more evidence that going green means creating high quality jobs across the United Kingdom.

‘We are at the forefront of seizing these new opportunities, supported by major Government investment and a British zeal for innovation and commerce.’

Among investments highlighted by the Government were Nissan and Envision’s commitment to an electric vehicle hub in Sunderland, chemical giant Ineos’s £1 billion plan to convert its Grangemouth refinery to run on hydrogen and the £100 million announced by Vauxhall’s parent firm Stellantis to turn the Ellesmere Port plant into a dedicated electric vehicle factory.

The Cabinet meeting comes ahead of a Global Investment Summit taking place in London next week, aimed at attracting further overseas cash.

Mr Johnson arrived back from Spain last night after his family break near Marbella

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