Johnson tells business leaders they have to deal with labour shortages

Conservatives begin their party conference amid warnings of a cost of living crisis and fuel shortages continuing for months

British foreign secretary Liz Truss speaking  at the annual Conservative Party conference in Manchester. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

British foreign secretary Liz Truss speaking at the annual Conservative Party conference in Manchester. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

 

Boris Johnson has told British businesses that it is up to them to deal with labour shortages that have pushed up prices and led to queues at filling stations and pigs being culled on farms. However he declined to rule out offering more temporary visas to foreign workers in addition to 10,000 already announced for lorry drivers and poultry workers.

“We’ll take each step as it comes, we’re there to support industries that are having difficulties. But it is fundamentally up to them to work out the way ahead. In the end those businesses, those industries, are the best solvers of their own supply-chain issues – government can’t step in and fix every bit of the supply chain. But what we certainly will do is keep all options on the table,”? he said during a visit to a youth centre in Manchester.

Mr Johnson was speaking as the Conservatives began their party conference in Manchester amid warnings of a cost of living crisis and fuel shortages continuing for months. The National Pig Association said last week that up to 120,000 pigs may have to be culled on farms and not sold for pork meat because of a shortage of abattoir workers.

The prime minister expressed scepticism about what he described as a “hecatomb”? of pigs, and he cautioned against using the lever of “uncontrolled immigration”? to address problems in the labour market.

“We will take sensible measures and we will use controlled immigration as one of the things like any sensible government would. I’m the product of immigration, a lot of the cabinet are the product – we’re all descended in one way or another from immigrants over the centuries. It’s a fantastic thing but you’ve got to control it,” he said.

“The thing you can’t do is go back to the model of the UK economy that we had for decades, which was basically allowing low-wage, low-skilled jobs to be supported by uncontrolled immigration. I’ll tell you why not. That led to the UK having comparatively very low productivity, very low wages and that’s not the way forward because we should be a high-skill, high-productivity economy – that’s what we are going to be.”?

Earlier, in an interview with the BBC, Mr Johnson said the 2016 Brexit vote and his election victory in 2019 were votes to change the economic model that relied on low wages.

Allies

In her speech to the conference in Manchester foreign secretary Liz Truss said she hoped to build a “network of liberty by strengthening economic and security ties with friends and allies around the world”.

“We will have a positive, proactive and patriotic foreign policy that expands trade routes, strengthens security partnerships, and supports development around the world.

“We want to trade with and invest in more countries to our mutual benefit, which leads to freer and wealthier societies aligned to the cause of liberty, spreading the human rights and values we believe in.”?

Ms Truss identified as friends and allies the G7 and Nato, Australia, Japan and Mexico, India and the rest of the Commonwealth, Israel, South Korea, the Gulf States, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the Visegrad states of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, and the United States. She did not name the European Union.