Boris Johnson faced business fury today after ministers dismissed calls for ‘uncontrolled immigration’ and warned workers must be paid better amid fears of food and fuel shortages this winter
Industry chiefs warned that the burden of higher wages will hit consumers as the government dug its heels in despite rising alarm that supply chain chaos could continue for months.
In a round of interviews at Tory conference in Manchester this morning, Chancellor Rishi said the government is ready to take ‘short-term’ action to help reduce the pressure.
‘But we can’t wave a magic wand and make global supply chain problems disappear overnight,’ he said.
He said that ‘in an ideal world’ the ‘higher pay is driven by higher productivity’ and is a ‘net positive for the economy’.
But Mr Sunak conceded that ‘the exact way that costs and prices manifest themselves’ will vary between parts of the economy.
He batted away concerns about spiking inflation, stressing that the Bank of England still believes it will be ‘transitory’ – even though massive rises in energy bills and other costs are already in the pipeline.
‘Wages are rising. That is a positive thing, that is a good thing,’ Mr Sunak told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Farmers staged noisy protests outside the Tory gathering in Manchester this morning, after Mr Johnson shrugged off concerns about a mass culling of pigs because of a lack of abattoir staff.
Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, warned that customers would end up paying the price for the government’s stance.
‘What’s interesting is the (Government is) happy to ban the import of non-UK labour in this country, but they continue to actually aid and abet imported food from countries that have got access to this labour,’ he told Sky News.
‘At the end of the day someone has to pay for these increased wages and they somewhat get in the way of that by aiding and abetting imported food.’
In a round of interviews at Tory conference in Manchester this morning, Chancellor Rishi said the government is ready to take ‘short-term’ action to help reduce the pressure
Farmers staged noisy protests outside the Tory gathering in Manchester this morning, after Mr Johnson shrugged off concerns about a mass culling of pigs because of a lack of abattoir staff
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss risked inflaming the row yesterday by insisting the government is not ‘responsible for what’s in the shops’.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson said ‘uncontrolled immigration’ was not the answer to the problems, arguing the country is going through a ‘period of adjustment’ to a higher-wage economy after Brexit.
Speaking at a Telegraph fringe event, Ms Truss was asked if Mr Johnson would be to blame for a grim Christmas of shortages. ‘I don’t believe in a command and control economy, so I don’t believe the Prime Minister is responsible for what’s in the shops,’ she said.
‘This is why we have a free enterprise economy, I’m sure that the goods will be delivered into our shops.’
Another Cabinet ministers told MailOnline the government was determined to take on sectors of the economy that are complaining about labour shortages.
They said even bringing back free movement would not resolve the issues and firms must increase wages and improve training of Britons.
‘We could restore free movement and throw open the borders, it wouldn’t solve this problem,’ they said.
‘There is a worldwide shortage of drivers. There are not the people who want to come and do the jobs.’
The minister added: ‘We need to lay it on the line to these sectors that have not been planning and doing the right things for many years.
‘They are getting tax breaks, super-deductions… what is it for if they are not investing in people?
‘We have not been through all that argument for Brexit just to accept uncontrolled immigration and low wages.’
The head of the NFU has described food shortages as a ‘welfare disaster’ as the union calls for a Covid recovery visa to allow firms to recruit from outside the UK.
Minette Batters, president of the NFU, said she has spoken to some angry pig farmers who are protesting outside the Conservative Party conference in Manchester following labour shortages across the supply chain.
She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘They are protesting outside and they are angry, distraught and extremely upset.
‘They have been calling for this, we have been calling for an emergency scheme, a Covid recovery scheme, to be put in place to avoid this very scenario.’
She added: ‘I am desperate to get the facts of this story to the Prime Minister and that is what the pig farmers outside want to get across, the story of this disaster.
Many people – particularly in London and the South East – are still struggling to fill up vehicles amid driver shortages and supply chain disruption. Pictured, a petrol station in Bermondsey today
Mr Johnson dressed more appropriately for his jog this morning, after being photographed yesterday running in a suit shirt (pictured left). Right, Liz Truss
‘We have never had a cull of healthy livestock in this country and this cannot be a first. I can’t stress it enough, this cannot happen, there are vets outside as well. It is a welfare disaster.
‘Farmers produce food for the nation and I’m very proud to do it, we have very high standards of pork production in this country and we have to solve this issue.’
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden tried to reassure the public that their turkey supplies are not in danger, saying there was a plan to shore up staffing in the meat industry.
Mr Johnson angrily denied yesterday that he was imposing too much tax on the country, saying the government had been hit with a ‘fiscal meteorite’ in the form of the pandemic.
He declined completely to rule out increasing taxes again – despite Cabinet ministers warning that the burden is as high as Britons can tolerate.
And he prayed Margaret Thatcher in aid, saying she would not have kept borrowing money to finance public services.
In a bad-tempered interview, Mr Johnson said: ‘When people voted for change in 2016 and when people voted for change again in 2019, they voted for the end of a broken model of the UK economy that relied on low wages and low skills and chronic low productivity – and we’re moving away from that.’
The premier conceded ‘there will be a period of adjustment’ but added ‘that is I think what we need to see’.
Asked when he was first warned about the HGV driver crisis, Mr Johnson said there have been shortages ‘for a very long time and it’s a chronic problem’.
Source: Daily Mail