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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Sunak: Doing all we can to fix supplies for shops


Shoppers can be reassured ministers are doing “absolutely everything we can” to fix supply chain issues in the UK, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said.

Several retailers have recently issued warnings about potential stock shortages during the Christmas shopping season.

Mr Sunak, speaking to the BBC at the conclusion of the G7 meetings in Washington, blamed global factors for the delays seen at ports such as Felixstowe.

It comes after the G7 finance ministers agreed to collaborate to address the issues.

“I’m confident there will be a good amount of Christmas presents available for everyone to buy,” Mr Sunak said.

His remarks came as a container backlog at ports such as Felixstowe, as well as a shortage of HGV lorry drivers, sparked concerns among businesses ahead of the busiest period of the year for retail spending.

The UK’s largest commercial port said on Wednesday that the supply chain crisis has caused a shipping container backlog.

The busy pre-Christmas period and haulage shortages were blamed by the Port of Felixstowe, which handles 36% of the UK’s freight container traffic.

However, it stated that the situation has improved in recent days.

Meanwhile, shipping behemoth Maersk announced to the BBC that it was rerouting some of its largest ships away from the port.

Shipping giant Maersk has rerouted some ships away from Felixstowe

Simultaneously, one of the largest ports in the United States will begin operating 24 hours a day in an attempt to clear long cargo ship queues.

Following a similar move by the nearby Long Beach port, the Port of Los Angeles in California announced that it will handle more goods at night.

The ports, which handle 40% of all cargo containers entering the US, have been plagued by issues for months.

The White House announced on Wednesday that major US companies such as Walmart and FedEx have committed to increasing their round-the-clock operations to help clear the backlog.

Mr Sunak was speaking after the G7 agreed to work more closely together to monitor issues affecting global trade.

The meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors discussed the importance of global cooperation in ensuring more resilient supply chains as the world recovers from the pandemic.

The G7 (Group of Seven) is an organisation made up of the world’s seven most powerful so-called advanced economies. They are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Ministers and officials from member countries meet, reach agreements, and issue joint statements on global events.

Shops have been hit by shortages in recent weeks

Mr Sunak largely focused on the situation for industry in the UK in the BBC interview, and he said he completely rejected the assertion of UK Steel’s CEO that the government had created a “hostile environment” for industrial investment and levelling up.

When asked if he was willing to accept that high gas prices would drive some heavy industry out of business, he said he needed to protect taxpayers’ money and that “it’s not the government’s job to come in and start managing the price of every individual product.”

Mr Sunak stated that the government would collaborate with businesses after Prime Minister Boris Johnson blamed shortages on UK firms “mainlining” migrant labour, citing the appointment of former Tesco CEO Sir Dave Lewis as a supply chain tsar.

However, the chancellor also stated that “everyone,” including Mr Johnson, recognises that increasing wages without increasing productivity would lead to inflation.

He stated that Mr Johnson’s proposed shift to a high-wage, high-skilled economy would “obviously take time.”

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