The government scheme to bring 4,700 HGV drivers over on a temporary three month visa has attracted
approximately 200 drivers in total and is now closed to new applicants, according to Home Office migration minister Kevin Foster.
Appearing before the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee last week Foster told MPs that “around 200 visas” had been issued.
The committee grilled the minister on the effectiveness of the emergency visa scheme in plugging gaps in the farming and logistics sector, which have both seen severe skills shortages.
MPs on the committee slammed the minister for a scheme which they said was far too bureaucratic and expensive for most companies to use as a viable option.
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News of the low take-up of the HGV driver scheme follows reports that a second government emergency visa scheme, launched as a result of the petrol pump crisis in October, has also had scant interest.
The scheme, which allows up to 300 qualified European HGV fuel tanker drivers to be granted an emergency short-term visa, had seen only nine successful applicants by early November, Greg Hands, the minister of state for the department for business, energy and industrial strategy, revealed in a reply to a parliamentary question.
RHA policy director Duncan Buchanan said he was not surprised by the muted response to both schemes. “They are half-baked and designed to fail,” he told MT, adding that the RHA had warned government at the time of the schemes’ launch that the length of the visas were far too short to attract European drivers.
Sally Gilson, RHA skills policy manager added: “It was always going to be difficult to try to persuade people to come over here for three months. It needed to be a longer scheme and preferably on the skills shortage occupations list, not as a temporary measure.”
The temporary permits were dubbed the “Scrooge” visas after the government ruled they would only run from the end of September to 24 December. However in October the DfT extended the deadline to the end of February 2022.
Both schemes were launched to help tackle the driver shortage crisis, along with a raft of other measures including plans to train up to 4,000 new HGV drivers to help tackle the skills shortages and support more people to launch careers within the logistics sector. Nearly 1 million letters were also sent to HGV licence holders, to encourage lapsed drivers back into the industry.