Keir Starmer says 'lack of planning' has resulted in a series of national crises

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has insisted a “very serious lack of planning” by the Government has resulted in a succession of crises which are placing an enormous strain on businesses and inflating the cost of living.

Labour party leader Sir Keir Starmer

He said the shortage of lorry drivers and farm workers, rising energy prices and recent issues with the fuel supply are “self-made problems” for the Government and it has shown “sheer complacency” in recent months.

His comments came after he discussed supply chain issues with members of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), business leaders and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, during a round-table meeting at Manor Farm, in the North Yorkshire village of Kelfield yesterday.

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“Every single issue we discussed here this afternoon was a predictable problem. Whether people voted to leave or remain is no longer the question. The question is how do we make things like Brexit work? The Government hasn’t got a plan,” he said.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (centre) and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves (left) chat with National Farmers Union president, Minette Batters (right) at Manor Farm in Kelfield, Yorkshire where they discussed supply chain issues with local farmers.

“Every day there is a new element to the crisis. It is a crisis brought about by a lack of planning. Whether it is the fuel sector, delivery of goods, farming or energy, it’s a lack of planning and every day it ramps up.

“We’ve got a Government that when it’s not arguing amongst itself has got its fingers in its ears and a Prime Minister who is on holiday.

“The sheer complacency of the Government in the face of this cost of living crisis is staggering.”

The Labour leader also said that households across the country are facing rising costs and it looks like the situation is “going to get worse” in the run up to Christmas.

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It comes as the Government is due to announce temporary visas for overseas workers to tackle an acute shortage of butchers and abattoir workers that has led to a crisis in the industry, with farmers warning up to 150,000 pigs could be destroyed due to a backlog of animals ready for slaughter.

Last month, Downing Street said 5,500 temporary visas will be issued to poultry workers and 5,000 to HGV drivers in an attempt to prevent shortages in the run-up to Christmas and called in the Army to drive fuel tankers.

The NFU is also calling on the Government to set up a permanent scheme to provide thousands of additional visas for seasonal workers who want to join severely short-staffed horticultural businesses.

The NFU’s president, Minette Batters said: “Labour is something we could sort, right here right now. Government could sort that out and that would take a lot of pressure off of the sector.

“You can’t expect growers to keep planting at a huge cost to them, with rising energy prices across the piste. If they could have access to labour, they could get through this period and we can make sure no consumer is disadvantaged when it comes to access to high-quality British food.”

Sir Keir accepted that more visas may be needed in the short term, but said British farmers will not need to rely on overseas workers in the long-term.

He said: “I don’t think that is the answer to these problems. It may be an acute issue now brought on by the Government’s lack of planning. But in the long term, I think with a strategic plan we can build up and improve.”