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Fuel supply crisis: Grant Shapps blames haulage group for creating 'manufactured situation' as pump

26 September

The transport secretary has said there would be no fuel queues if motorists filled up as normal as he accused a haulage group of triggering the "manufactured situation".

Speaking to Sky News' Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme, Grant Shapps insisted there was "plenty of fuel" and urged the public to be "sensible" as some retailers were forced to shut their pumps and ration sales in the face of long lines at petrol stations for a third day.
The supply crisis has been caused by a shortage of fuel tanker drivers.
Latest updates on fuel crisis
The cabinet minister's comments came as the government announced a temporary visa scheme that will allow 5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers to be brought in from abroad on three-month contracts to keep supermarket shelves stocked with turkeys in the run up to Christmas and tackle fuel delivery problems.
However, business leaders have already warned the package of measures "will not be enough".
Mr Shapps said: "I think the important thing to know is that within the country, at the six refineries and 47 storage facilities, there is plenty of fuel, there is no shortage of fuel within the country.
"So the most important thing is actually that if people carry on as they normally would and fill up their cars when they normally would, then you won't have queues and you won't have shortages at the pump either."
The transport secretary also rounded on a haulage trade body, which he said had helped "spark" the crisis through "irresponsible briefings" to the public and claimed it was "desperate to have more European drivers undercutting British salaries".
Although Mr Shapps did not name the group, the Mail on Sunday reported a government source stating the Road Haulage Association was "entirely responsible for this panic and chaos".
Denying the government had ignored warnings for months about a looming driver shortage, Mr Shapps said: "Let's not pretend this is a UK-specific problem, it's not.
"In Europe, for example in Poland, the shortage is 123,000 drivers, so there isn't just one simple new point to axe off, there isn't one simple solution to this, but we have, despite having had shortages, managed to ensure that petrol was still getting to petrol stations, food getting to the shops.
"I'm afraid there has been some pretty irresponsible briefing out by one of the road haulage associations, which has helped to spark a crisis, and that's very, very unhelpful, it's counterproductive.
"I know that they're desperate to have more European drivers undercutting British salaries, I know that's been their ask all along.
"We actually think that it's important that this country can train people, that people can do a proper day's work, that they're paid properly for that work, and that the long-term solution cannot be undercutting British salaries and having a constant vicious cycle of not being able to train people here and employ them on decent salaries."
Mr Shapps added: "We need to ensure that people are reassured now that this rather manufactured situation has been created, because there's enough petrol in the country."
Pressed over who had caused it, he said: "There was a meeting which took place about 10 days ago, a private meeting in which one of the haulage associations decided to leak the details to media, and that has created, as we have seen, quite a large degree of concern as people naturally react to those things.
"The good news is there is plenty of fuel, the bad news is if everyone carries on buying it when they don't need it then we will continue to have queues.
"We just appeal to people to be sensible, fill up when you normally would.
"We've got this big package in place today in order to help alleviate the pressure and we ask people to do their part."
But Rod McKenzie, of the RHA, said: "The allegation against me is nonsense.
"I was not in the meeting. I was not briefed about the meeting afterwards. I certainly didn't brief any journalists about the meeting about which I knew nothing.
"It is entirely without foundation."
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer suggested visas could be needed for 100,000 lorry drivers, rather than the 5,000 announced by ministers, to tackle the shortage.
He told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "We have to issue enough visas to cover the number of drivers that we need."
But some European lorry drivers do not think many will think it is worth coming to the UK just for three months.
Imran Mustafa, who moved to Barcelona from Pakistan eight years ago and has been a haulage driver for three years, said: "It's a temporary visa and it's for a very small time period."
Mehmet Ozalp, a 28-year-old driver from Mersin in Turkey, who has recently moved to Germany, said: "I would only move for at least six months and above. If you're moving thousands of kilometres, it shouldn't be just for three months."

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German election: Two main rivals neck-and-neck, exit poll shows

26 September

An exit poll in Germany suggests the two main rivals are tied in an election that will determine who will succeed Angela Merkel.

No single party has ever won a total majority in the country's Bundestag (lower house of parliament), meaning politicians will likely be plunged into negotiations in the coming days.
The exit poll shows Mrs Merkel's CDU/CSU bloc and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) neck-and-neck with about 25% of the vote.
It is the CDU/CSU bloc's weakest result in a post-war federal election.
The infratest poll for the broadcaster ARD also suggested the Greens could be on track to win as much as 15% and the far-right party AfD could garner 11%.


In the running to become the next chancellor is CDU/CSU bloc's Armin Laschet and outgoing finance minister Olaf Scholz for the Social Democrats.
The environmentalist Greens, with candidate Annalena Baerbock, are also making their first run for the chancellery.
Voting closed at 5pm UK time in a bitterly fought election where no clear front-runner emerged to replace Mrs Merkel's after 16 years in power.
About 60.4 million people in the nation of 83 million were eligible to elect the new Bundestag, which will choose the next head of government.

Long-serving leader Ms Merkel has won praise for steering Germany through several major crises, including the financial crash and the coronavirus pandemic.
The new chancellor will have to lead the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which Germany so far has weathered relatively well thanks to large rescue programmes that have fuelled fresh debt.

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'A beautiful moment in the beautiful game': Fulham players celebrate with young disabled fan who was

26 September

Fulham footballers players have been praised for creating "a beautiful moment in the beautiful game" after celebrating a goal with a disabled supporter who had been bullied online.

Several of the London team's players ran over to Rhys Porter, who was sat in the front row of one the stands, after Aleksandar Mitrovic put Fulham in front in the second half.
The 13-year-old, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, plays as a goalkeeper for the Feltham Bees disability team.
After posting a video of himself saving a goal on the social media platform TikTok, Rhys received hundreds of abusive comments from other users.
Fulham responded by making Rhys an honorary member of their team and listed him as a first team goalkeeper on their site.
Rhys later cried tears of joy after the club arranged for him to meet one of his heroes, defender Tim Ream, on BBC Breakfast.
Ream tweeted about yesterday's celebration after the game against Bristol City ended in a draw, saying: "Not the result Rhys Porter asked for but another cool moment shared and experienced."
Twitter user Mark Twomey shared a video of the celebration and wrote: "A beautiful moment in the beautiful game."
Rhys took part in a fundraising campaign for the disability charity Scope earlier this month after he was targeted by the online bullies.
The youngster told Sky Sports News at the time: "I made an account (on TikTok), it was called 'Rhys the Wall', I was going to post TikToks of me in goal and I posted about four or five and I posted a video of me where I made a save, and then it went viral and it had loads of horrible comments.
"It made me feel quite sad, but I try and get over it and I try and make the positives come out of the situation.
"I joined a disability charity and I'm doing 20 saves a day in line with the Paralympics and I'm trying to raise some awareness for disabled people. You can find the positives out of a situation if you look hard enough."
His mother Kelly Porter added: "There were a lot of hate comments, a lot of really nasty comments, people being opinionated saying things like: 'you can't play football you're disabled'.
"It was shattering to read, but at the same time, we know that life and reality can be quite harsh.
"We didn't feel the need to hide it from him but just to address it with him and try and move forward."

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Supply crisis: Why is there an HGV driver shortage and how bad could the problem get?

26 September

Panicked motorists have caused lengthy queues at petrol stations and caused some pumps to run dry - the latest consequence of a shortage of HGV drivers which is causing widespread disruption in the UK.

The government insists the country has "ample fuel stocks" but it has not stopped long lines of cars forming after some forecourts were affected by problems getting petrol deliveries.
It comes after the UK's biggest supermarket chains and restaurants including McDonald's, KFC and Nando's, were impacted by the truck driver shortages.
Fuel supply latest: Follow live updates as police urge motorists to 'be sensible'
Retailers have now warned a solution must be found within days to avoid "significant disruption" in the run-up to Christmas.
So why is there a HGV driver shortage, how big is the problem and what can be done to fix it?
Why is there a shortage of HGV drivers?
The UK needs 100,000 more HGV drivers if it is to meet demand, according to the Road Haulage Association (RHA).
Rod McKenzie, from the organisation, told Sky News it is a "critical situation" and a "cocktail of chaos" had led to the crisis.
So what are the causes?
COVID pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has seen many foreign HGV drivers return to their home countries and the "vast majority" have not returned, according to the RHA.
There has also been a large backlog in HGV driver tests due to the pandemic, meaning tens of thousands of potential new drivers have been unable to join the industry.
Last year, 40,000 tests were cancelled - with 25,000 fewer candidates passing their test in 2020 than in 2019.
Brexit
The RHA claims around 20,000 European drivers have left the UK for "Brexit reasons".
It says the "uncertainty of Brexit and future rights to live and work in the UK" forced many drivers to leave the country. However Transport Secretary Grant Shapps claims Brexit has helped provide solutions to the shortages in the haulage sector by allowing an increase in HGV driving tests to be introduced.
He told Sky News: "I've seen people point to Brexit as if it is the culprit here. In fact, they are wrong."
Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds said the government's handling of Brexit had been partly to blame for adding extra pressure on the HGV sector.
She told Sky News that manufacturers now faced "additional red tape" and drivers were having to fill in "dozens of pages of paperwork".
"That is quite a tall order for a HGV driver if they have got to be dealing with all of that, as well as getting goods from one place to another," she added.
Retiring drivers
The average age of an HGV driver is 55, while less than 1% of drivers are under the age of 25, according to the RHA.
It says around 2,000 drivers are leaving the industry every week, often due to retirement, with only 1,000 new recruits joining over the same period.
Mr McKenzie told Sky News: "We've got an ageing population of lorry drivers so we've got more lorry drivers leaving the profession because they want to retire.
"We've got more drivers leaving than joining so as every week goes by so there's something new in the supply chain that's creaking and crumbling."
Cost of training and pay
Mr McKenzie said the industry "needs to make the profession of a trucker much more enticing" to younger people and warned the cost of training was a deterrent.
"We want younger people to want to be truckers, and it's expensive - at least £4,000, possibly £7,000 - to train to be a trucker and that's beyond the pockets of most young people," he told Sky News.
"So we've got to make it easier to take that financial burden away from them and make it easier for them to get in and stay in.
"One of the problems we've had has been low pay and that's now being addressed.
"We're seeing in many cases trucker pay has risen quite dramatically to around £40,000-£50,000 a year, which is very welcome."
Tax changes
A change to rules on how people working off the payroll pay tax has been blamed for some HGV drivers leaving the industry.
The reform of the IR35 rules were designed to prevent workers from setting up limited companies through which they pay less tax and National Insurance while working, in effect, as an employee.
Victoria Short, chief executive of Randstad UK Recruitment, told Sky News it had resulted in many HGV drivers moving from self-employed status to employed status, which saw their earnings drop by as much as 25%.
Working conditions
Conditions at roadside services in the UK are "far worse" than in mainland Europe, according to Ms Short.
She said: "When we're trying to attract talent from mainland Europe to come here and work, and the pay and conditions that they have there are better, we need to consider how we can looks at things like that for them as well."
• What is being done to fix the problem?
Temporary visas
The government has cleared the way for a visa change allowing foreign lorry drivers to work in the UK.
The temporary measures will see opportunities created for 5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers to take up employment in the UK until Christmas Eve, in a bid to keep supermarket shelves stocked with turkeys and toys and counter delivery difficulties at petrol stations.
But Mr McKenzie said the temporary visas "won't solve" the problems facing the haulage industry, adding that "much more needs to be done on training, apprenticeships, testing and welfare facilities for truckers".
HGV driving tests relaxed
The transport secretary announced earlier this month that HGV driving tests will be relaxed to allow 50,000 more to be taken in an attempt to tackle the shortage of lorry drivers ahead of Christmas.
Mr Shapps said three changes will happen to speed up the process after the suspension of tests during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The changes are:
• From 20 September, car drivers will not be able to take a test to tow a trailer or caravan to allow about 30,000 more HGV driving tests to be taken this year
• Tests will be made shorter, with the reversing exercise element removed and the uncoupling and recoupling exercise for trailer tests removed - and they will not have to be tested separately by a third party
• Articulated vehicle drivers will no longer have to get a licence for a smaller vehicle first. The government says this will allow about 20,000 more HGV tests each year and means drivers can gain licences and enter the industry more quickly.
Military support?
There have been reports that the government is set to call on HGV specialists from the military, including the Royal Logistics Corps, in an effort to tackle a deteriorating backlog of goods.
But Richard Burnett, who heads the RHA, told Sky News that deploying army personnel to help tackle the HGV driver shortage "will not scratch the surface" of the UK's delivery crisis.

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Labour conference: Deputy leader Angela Rayner doubles down on Tory 'scum' comments - as minister cr

26 September

Angela Rayner has declined to apologise for calling the Conservatives "scum", saying she was using "street language" to convey her "anger and frustration" at the actions of the government.

Her defence came as a Tory MP apologised for suggesting a bomb should be planted in a Labour frontbencher's office.
James Gray claimed he meant "no offence" with the comment about Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds that he posted in a WhatsApp group.
Speaking to Trevor Phillips on Sunday on Sky News about her own comments, Labour's deputy leader said they were made "post-watershed...with a group of activists at an event last night" at the party's annual conference in Brighton.
Ms Rayner said she was trying to convey in a "passionate way" the "anger and frustration that people feel when you have a prime minister, who has said things and not apologised that are racist, that are misogynistic, that are homophobic, that has given billions of pounds of taxpayers' money to their mates and literally wasted that money".
She continued: "My passion was about look, we can't sit on the sidelines here, we have to get organised.

"I was speaking to a group of activists to say you've got to get that fire in your belly."
According to the Daily Mirror, she told the event on Saturday night: "We cannot get any worse than a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, absolute vile... banana republic, vile, nasty, Etonian... piece of scum."
To applause, Ms Rayner added that she had "held back a little".
Questioned about the comments on Sky News, Labour's deputy leader said she was referring to Boris Johnson and his top team of ministers.
And she doubled down on it, declaring: "I think anyone who leaves children hungry during a pandemic and can give billions of pounds for their mates on WhatsApp, I think that was pretty scummy.
"It's a phrase you would hear very often in northern working class towns, that we'd even say it jovially to other people, we say it's a scummy thing to do.
"That to me is my street language, as you would say, about actually it's pretty appalling that people think that's OK to do."
Ms Rayner stressed she was not saying that anyone who voted for the party was "scum", adding: "I'm not saying anybody who voted Conservative are those things, I'm saying the prime minister has said those things and acted in that way.
Referring to past comments from Mr Johnson, which includes him comparing burka-wearing Muslim women to "letter boxes" and describing gay men as "tank-topped bum boys", she continued: "If the prime minister wants to apologise and remove himself from those comments that he's made that are homophobic, that are racist, that are misogynistic then I will apologise for calling him scummy."
The PM has been challenged numerous times over the years about some of his past comments.
Questioned by Sky News back in 2019, during his successful campaign to become Tory leader, Mr Johnson said he would not be "muffled" and "will continue to speak directly".
"If sometimes in the course of trying to get across what I genuinely think, I use phrases and language that have caused offence, of course I'm sorry for the offence that I have caused," Mr Johnson told Sky's political editor Beth Rigby.
Asked about his deputy's remarks, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show it was "not language that I would use".
Pressed on whether Ms Rayner should apologise, he said: "That's a matter for Angela. I would not have used those words.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the comments were "absolutely appalling" and Ms Rayner should say sorry.
"There's just no place in public life for that sort of language, that sort of behaviour," he told Sky News.
Conservative chairman Oliver Dowden said: "At a time when the country is trying to pull together to recover from COVID, the last thing we need is the deputy leader of the Labour Party calling people 'scum' and yelling insults.
"We need to make politics better, not drag it into the gutter. Let's see if we get an apology."
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said Ms Rayner was "talking crap".
But Labour's former shadow chancellor John McDonnell defended the party's deputy leader, telling Trevor Phillips on Sunday she was "human".
"She may well drop herself in it, just as I have time and time again, but she's human and she has human emotions and when you get angry about something sometimes the language that you use might be over the top," he said.
Speaking to Times Radio, shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said "it's not my preferred choice of words".
"I'm as angry as Angela is about the damage that they're doing, but I'm less interested in talking about them and more interested in putting forward an alternative," she said.
Subscribe to the All Out Politics podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify.
Mr Gray's "bomb" remark was reported by the Mail on Sunday, who said it came in exchange with fellow Conservative Robert Largan.
"Does anybody know where Anneliese Dodds' Commons office is based? I need to deliver something to her office," Mr Largan wrote.
Mr Gray replied: "A bomb, perhaps?"
Mr Largan said he was making a "polite request" for directions so as to hand deliver a letter and called for his Tory colleague to apologise for the "completely and utterly inappropriate" remark.
"I think it's important that he has apologised," Ms Dodds told HuffPost UK about the comment.

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