UK government says it is not responsible for preventing Christmas shortages
The UK government is not responsible for making sure there are no shortages in shops at Christmas, a top cabinet minister has said.
Speaking on the first day of Tory conference in Manchester Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, said the UK was a “free enterprise economy” and suggested the government was not in control.
It comes after Labour leader Keir Starmer claimed the shortages hitting the UK were a “crisis made in Downing Street” which had been “created by this Prime Minister’s incompetence”.
Economists blame the prime minister’s decision to leave the EU single market and end free movement for economic disruption hitting the UK.
A shortage of lorry drivers has has caused knock-on supply problems for goods on the shelves and notably for fuel, which needs to be delivered by tanker.
And there are concerns that shortages of some goods could become worse as Christmas looms.
But Ms Truss, a staunch free-marketer, told an event on the fringes of the conference: “I don’t believe in a command and control economy, so I don’t believe the Prime Minister is responsible for what’s in the shops.
“This is why we have a free enterprise economy, I’m sure that the goods will be delivered into our shops.”
She added: “We have had an economy that’s under-invested in capital, that’s used the fact that we have had a supply of relatively affordable workers to do jobs in this country. In order to compete we do need to get better technology and machinery into our factories.
“People said free movement of people wasn’t depressing wages. That clearly isn’t true and we’ve seen the results.”
The foreign secretary who was recently promoted from her previous job as international trade secretary, also appeared to downplay hopes of a trade deal with the US – previously her primary objective.
She said an agreement with Joe Biden’s administration was not the “be all and end all” and suggested the UK could focus on other countries.
“I don’t agree with you that that’s the be all and end all of trade,” she told the same event on Sunday in Manchester, at the start of the Tories four-day conference.
“My message to the Americans is ‘we’re ready when you are ready’ but there’s a whole world out there, there are lots of fast-growing parts of the world who want to do business with Britain and there’s a full pipeline of trade deals we are negotiating.”
The previous US president, Donald Trump, was understood to be more positive about a trade deal with the UK than his successor Mr Biden.
In her main conference speech to the floor of conference, Ms Truss suggested wealthy and eco-friendly countries are less likely to harbour terrorists.
“The freer a country is, the wealthier it is, the more secure it is, the greener it is,” she said
“It is less likely to harbour terrorists and radical fundamentalists, it is less likely to have huge migration outflows, and less likely to go to war.”