The UK government has revealed plans to issue 10,500 temporary visas to lorry drivers and food industry workers as supply chain challenges and fuel shortages escalate.

Number 10 will issue 5,000 short-term visas for fuel tanker and food lorry drivers, as well as a further 5,500 for poultry workers in a bid to ease the crisis engulfing Britain’s supply chains.

Under the current proposals, temporary overseas workers would be allowed to stay in the UK until Christmas Eve.

The government will also speed up the process of obtaining a lorry license, with up to 50,000 more tests set to be available by the end of the year.

But the new measures were slammed by retailers as not going far enough to tackle the scale of the crisis. Grocery retailers, in particular, have been warning for months that availability would be impacted by a shortage of HGV drivers, and have long been calling on Westminster to issue temporary visas for overseas workers.

The British Retail Consortium has revealed that the UK is facing a shortfall of 90,000 drivers and issued the stark warning last Friday that the government had just 10 days to take meaningful action and save Christmas.

The BRC’s director of food and sustainability Andrew Opie said over the weekend: “While we welcome the visa scheme to allow HGV drivers from abroad to help temporarily fill domestic shortages in food and fuel logistics, the limit of 5,000 visas will do little to alleviate the current shortfall.

“Supermarkets alone have estimated they need at least 15,000 HGV drivers for their businesses to be able to operate at full capacity ahead of Christmas and avoid disruption or availability issues.”

Opie also called on the government to extend the programme to HGV drivers across the whole retail sector.

The government was sparked into action following a surge in fuel shortages across the country, which sparked widespread panic-buying over the weekend.

BP revealed that a third of its petrol stations had run out of the two main fuel types, while EG Group, the petrol forecourt business operated by Asda owners the Issa brothers, placed a £30 limit on purchases to ensure all of its customers could fill up their tanks.

The Petrol Retailers Associations (PRA) said that although the government measures are welcome, they will not solve short-term issues at the pumps. It estimated that between 50% and 90% of its members had run out of fuel.

PRA chair Brian Madderson told the BBC: “Those measures introduced by the government this weekend are not ultra-short term. We might see benefits of them later in the autumn as the drivers come across and start to work. But in the very short-term this panic buying has caused really serious problems.”

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