The UK Government has been accused of “incompetence” after a senior minister disclosed that only about 20 foreign lorry drivers have been granted temporary work visas.
It was announced last month that the government would issue 5000 temporary visas to HGV drivers and a further 5500 to poultry workers in an attempt to prevent shortages in the run up to Christmas.
However Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden said the numbers of drivers applying were “relatively limited”, with about 300 applications received and about 20 actually issued.
His disclosure came after home office minister Kevin Foster, in a letter circulated to all MPs, said each application would take 15 working days – three weeks – to process.
Speaking on LBC radio, Dowden said that he would expect the numbers being issued to increase “over time”.
“The number so far is relatively limited,” he said.
“We have 300 people that have applied for these visas. I believe the number is just over 20 that actually received them, so are on the road, but I expect that number to increase over time.”
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “It is staggering that just 20 fuel tanker drivers from abroad who applied to work here are now on UK roads
“In the face of a national crisis and our ports going into gridlock, the response from Conservative ministers is too little too late.
“This incompetence risks causing more empty shelves and more misery for British consumers in the run up to Christmas.
“The immigration system is broken, and it is hurting everyone.
“The government needs to end the arbitrary rules that are shutting out lorry drivers and urgently streamline visa applications so they are decided quickly and fairly.”