Turkeys for Christmas 'absolutely top of the list' for Environment Secretary, says senior Tory amid supply chain problems

Turkeys for Christmas is ‘top of the list’ amid growing concerns over shortages in the UK, a senior Conservative MP has said.

By Ross Robertson
Sunday, 3rd October 2021, 10:41 am
Oliver Dowden MP has pledged there will be turkeys for Christmas.
Oliver Dowden MP has pledged there will be turkeys for Christmas.

Tory co-chairman Oliver Dowden said people would be able to get turkeys for Christmas after the birds were listed among Christmas trees and other items expected to be in short supply due to difficulties in the supply chain.

Mr Dowden told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday that there were supply chain problems across the world due to lorry driver shortages but issues with turkey production were being addressed.

“We will make sure that people have their turkeys for Christmas,” he said.

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“I know that (for) the Environment Secretary George Eustice, this is absolutely top of his list.”

He acknowledged “there are challenges with supply chains” across the economy.

“We are not unique in the UK in this.

“If you look across Poland, the US, other countries, there are shortages of drivers – that’s to do with a range of factors.”

Those included an ageing workforce and the lack of driving tests during the pandemic.

Mr Dowden said the Government was “working tirelessly” to address fuel shortages, with the problems greater in the south than in northern England.

“I think it depends where you are in the country,” he told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday.

“So, for example, around here in Manchester I was out and about yesterday and I didn’t see any problems with petrol stations, you can get fuel pretty easily.

“There is clearly a problem still in London and the South East and people feel deeply frustrated and I share their anger and frustration at not being able to get access to petrol.

“That’s why the Government is working tirelessly to resolve that situation.”

However, the Prime Minister said he would “not just pull the big lever marked uncontrolled immigration” to deal with the shortage of truck and lorry drivers, as he blamed “demand” for the fuel shortages.

Asked if the shortages may continue until Christmas, the Prime Minister instead tried to explain why there is a shortage of drivers in the UK and other countries.

He also told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “When you look at the particular issue on petrol forecourts, there you’ve got a problem that actually now is very largely driven by demand.”

The Prime Minister added: “The way forward for our country is not to just pull the big lever marked uncontrolled immigration and allow in huge numbers of people to…”

Mr Marr said Mr Johnson had “cranked it a bit of the way”, with Mr Johnson countering: “In a controlled way, that’s entirely sensible.”

Mr Johnson said he would “not go back to the old, failed model” of low wages, low skills and supported by “uncontrolled” immigration.

When pressed, he acknowledged Chancellor Rishi Sunak is “right” about the prospect of shortages lasting until Christmas before recognising he has known about the HGV driver shortage “long before” June.

“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,” he said.

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”.

When told the Road Haulage Association warned him in June, the Prime Minister replied: “We’ve known about shortages in road haulage long before then.

“They’ve been a chronic feature of the way in which the road haulage industry has worked. What needs to happen now is people need to be decently paid and you need to have investment in their conditions.”

On fuel shortages, Mr Johnson said: “It has been abating and what you’re hearing now from the Petrol Retailers’ Association is that supplies are getting on to the forecourts.”

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