Senior Tory Criticises Haulier Industry ‘Addicted’ to Cheap, Foreign Labour

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 12: MP Iain Duncan Smith speaks at a rally for Hong Kong democracy at the Marble Arch on June 12, 2021 in London, England. The rally marked two years since a confrontation between Hong Kong police and protesters opposed to the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill, which …
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Former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has accused the haulier industry of being “addicted” to cheap, foreign labour and resisting calls for years to train British drivers and improve working conditions and pay.

In response to the so-called fuel crisis, the government last week announced plans for a temporary emergency visa scheme for thousands of European drivers, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggesting on Saturday that he does not rule out issuing more visas.

Claims that the shortage of heavy goods vehicle drivers was the fault of Brexit were countered by remarks from Sir Iain Duncan Smith earlier this week that countries across the European Union were experiencing their own similar crises.

Speaking on the issue again on GB News on Sunday, Sir Iain criticised British hauliers’ addiction to cheap foreign labour, which was so readily available when the UK was in the EU and subject to the uncontrolled free movement of people.

“The hauliers, for example, have not invested in training drivers for years in the UK,” Sir Iain said, describing, while working at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), his confrontations with haulier firms who did not want to pay for the training that unemployed Britons could not afford, claiming British people did not want to do the job.

“I bought 100 courses. Got the price down. We filled them completely, and they all passed out, and I said to them [hauliers], ‘Why don’t you do that?”‘ and they said, “It’s all too difficult.’

“The fact is, they were addicted to bringing in people who were cheaper to do the job.

“As a result of that, they didn’t do any investment in conditions, or what might attract younger people in. So now, the buck is stopping very much with them.

“We have to say to them: ‘You must, now, make this an interesting job. Invest in it. Invest in the people. Get them trained.’ And we’ll have no further shortages.”

Duncan Smith added that while the government can help, businesses need to take responsibility and train their own employees.

The Conservative said: “Government can only do so much. We need industry to step up and start this process of investing, again, in training… We need to say to them, ‘You now have a responsibility. We left the European Union so we could get these regulations and make these changes, but we also need you, British industry, to step up and start investing in the skills of people and see their incomes rise, their quality of life rise, and they will be more productive.'”

“It needs British business to stop constantly thinking about cheap labour, but start thinking about productive labour,” he added.

Prime Minister Johnson admitted to some of the same points, saying on Saturday that while he will be keeping the number of visas under review, he was hesitant to relax them further, saying: “What we don’t want to do is go back to a situation in which we basically allowed the road haulage industry to be sustained with a lot of low wage immigration.”

Acknowledging that cheap foreign labour suppresses wages and makes jobs unattractive to British workers, the prime minister continued: “That meant that wages didn’t go up and facilities, standards, and the quality of the job didn’t go up.

“So the weird thing is now that people don’t want to go into the road haulage industry, don’t want to be lorry drivers, precisely because we’ve had that massive immigration approach and held wages down and held the quality of the job down.

“So we want to see an improvement, we want to see investments in facilities.

“And what you’re now starting to see is, for the first time in over a decade, you’re seeing wages going up around the country, and that is fundamentally a good thing.

“That’s what we need. Wages are going up faster for those on the lower incomes, and that is what we mean by levelling up.”

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