Shadow defence secretary John Healey, who is also the MP for Wentworth and Dearne, spoke out after the Government announced military tanker drivers are preparing to deliver fuel to forecourts which have run dry due to widespread panic buying.
Drivers have been queuing at petrol stations across the country over the last week, as an estimated shortage of 100,000 heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers is causing severe supply chain issues.
A backlog of driver tests built up during the pandemic and thousands of European drivers have not returned to the UK since Brexit, but the Government recently announced 5,000 short-term overseas work visas to try and ease the shortage.
Mr Healey said: “This is an admission of failure from a government that continues to rely on the Army to bail it out.
“The Government have been too slow to act despite months of warnings from across the sector.
“Labour will support any measures that will mitigate the crisis this Government has caused.
“We know the Army will step up and deliver when asked, but this is a sticking plaster.
“We need a proper plan to recruit and train more drivers, including improvements to terms and conditions for those working in the sector.”
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, who issued the Military Aid to the Civil Authorities request on Monday, said putting troops on readiness to assist was a “sensible, precautionary step”.
“The UK continues to have strong supplies of fuel, however we are aware of supply chain issues at fuel station forecourts and are taking steps to ease these as a matter of priority.
“If required, the deployment of military personnel will provide the supply chain with additional capacity as a temporary measure to help ease pressures caused by spikes in localised demand for fuel.”
In an attempt to ease the driver shortage, transport secretary Grant Shapps has authorised an extension to special driver licences that allow drivers to transport goods such as fuel.
ADR licences which were due to expire between September 27 and December 31 will have their validity extended until January 31 in 2022, without refresher training or exams.
Mr Shapps said: “Even though the current network of tanker drivers is capable of delivering all the fuel we need – we have taken the additional step of asking the army to help plug the gap, whilst new HGV drivers come on stream thanks to all the other measures we’ve already taken.
“Extending ADR licences will further help ease any pressures on fuel drivers by removing the need for refresher training courses and ensuring they can keep providing their vital service on our roads.”