Prime minister Boris Johnson has appointed Cabinet minister Michael Gove to head a new committee tasked with tackling the UK’s food supply chain crisis, according to reports.
Gove will lead the National Economic Recovery Taskforce (Logistics), which it is understood will cut across government departments, and work with suppliers on how to solve the shortages.
Supermarkets have warned the shortages are causing gaps on shelves and will lead to price hikes and less choice this Christmas.
The Times reported that Johnson had joked at a recent Cabinet meeting that he “didn’t want to have to cancel Christmas again”.
The committee is expected to look at changes to licenses to increase the number of HGV drivers, reports said.
Gove has also been appointed the new minister for housing, communities and local government in Johnson’s Cabinet reshuffle. Stephen Barclay has been appointed Cabinet Office minister.
The Department of Transport has announced a streamlining of HGV testing, including drivers only needing to take one test to drive both rigid and articulated lorries, but critics have called the measures “potentially dangerous”.
Gove’s appointment follows calls from Labour for ministers to “get a grip” on the supply chain chaos.
Labour called for multi-point plan, including establishing a minister with responsibility for tackling worker and supply shortages, and a taskforce to work with business and unions to improve terms and conditions in key sectors.
Testing for HGV drivers should be rapidly expanded, with partly or wholly-funded training, and the question of adding HGV drivers to the Shortage Occupation List should be referred to the Migration Advisory Committee.
The party added that around a quarter of manufacturing and retail businesses had seen additional transportation costs. The Office for National Statistics today said that supply chain disruption was causing food price inflation.
London mayor Sadiq Khan has called on the government to create time-limited “Covid Recovery Visas” for foreign workers to maintain critical supply chains and services in the wake of Brexit and pandemic disruption.
Labour said that supply chain disruption was caused by increased barriers at the border, worker shortages following the end of the Brexit transition period, and long-standing issues around terms and conditions in key sectors like HGVs, as well as global supply shortages as a result of the Covid crisis.
Labour shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said: “The government must get a grip on the supply chain crisis facing our economy. While they act as if the problem will solve itself, businesses are telling government these problems are only going to grow. The serious disruption and added costs risk harming our recovery and passing costs to consumers.”
☛ Want to stay up to date with the news? Sign up to our daily bulletin.