Boris dodges over whether food and fuel shortages will last till CHRISTMAS

Ministers today denied they will be to blame if food and fuel shortages last until Christmas – as Boris Johnson insisted Britons must accept a ‘period of adjustment’ after Brexit. 

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss risked inflaming the furious row by arguing that the government is not ‘responsible for what’s in the shops’ because there is not a ‘command and control economy’.

The comments, at a fringe event at Tory conference in Manchester, came as the PM dodged on whether food and fuel shortages will last for months more.

He said the chaos at petrol stations ‘is abating’, even though many people – particularly in London and the South East – are still struggling to fill up vehicles amid driver shortages and supply chain disruption.

Mr Johnson stressed that ‘uncontrolled immigration’ was not the answer to the problems, and suggested the country is going through a rough patch moving to a higher-wage economy after leaving the EU. 

Speaking at a Telegraph fringe event, Ms Truss was asked if Mr Johnson would be to blame for a grim Christmas of shortages. ‘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,’ she said.

‘This is why we have a free enterprise economy, I’m sure that the goods will be delivered into our shops.’ 

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden tried to reassure the public that their turkey supplies are not in danger, saying there was a plan to shore up staffing in the meat industry.     

Repeatedly pressed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show over whether Chancellor Rishi Sunak had been right to warn recently that the issues could last until Christmas, Mr Johnson said: ‘Rishi is right invariably in what he says.’ But he stressed it depended on how his comments were ‘interpreted’. 

Mr Johnson also angrily denied that he was imposing too much tax on the country, saying the government had been hit with a ‘fiscal meteorite’ in the form of the pandemic.

He declined completely to rule out increasing taxes again – despite Cabinet ministers warning that the burden is as high as Britons can tolerate. 

And he prayed Margaret Thatcher in aid, saying she would not have kept borrowing money to finance public services.   

Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel visited the HideOut youth zone at the conference in Manchester today

Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel visited the HideOut youth zone at the conference in Manchester today

Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel visited the HideOut youth zone at the conference in Manchester today 

Mr Johnson warmed up for his busy day in Manchester by going for a morning run. But he sparked bewilderment as he was photographed jogging in a suit shirt, shorts and what appeared to be formal shoes and socks

Mr Johnson warmed up for his busy day in Manchester by going for a morning run. But he sparked bewilderment as he was photographed jogging in a suit shirt, shorts and what appeared to be formal shoes and socks

Liz Truss

Liz Truss

Mr Johnson warmed up for his busy day in Manchester by going for a morning run. But he sparked bewilderment as he was photographed jogging in a suit shirt, shorts and what appeared to be formal shoes and socks 

The PM insisted chaos at petrol stations 'is abating' as he gave an interview kicking off the Tories' annual conference in Manchester

The PM insisted chaos at petrol stations 'is abating' as he gave an interview kicking off the Tories' annual conference in Manchester

The PM insisted chaos at petrol stations ‘is abating’ as he gave an interview kicking off the Tories’ annual conference in Manchester

Ms Patel and Mr Johnson tried their hand at some ping pong - a sport he once memorable described as 'wiff waff' - today

Ms Patel and Mr Johnson tried their hand at some ping pong - a sport he once memorable described as 'wiff waff' - today

Ms Patel and Mr Johnson tried their hand at some ping pong – a sport he once memorable described as ‘wiff waff’ – today 

Mr Johnson conceded that many people - particularly in London and the South East - are still struggling to fill up vehicles amid driver shortages and supply chain disruption. Pictured, a petrol station in Wimbledon today

Mr Johnson conceded that many people - particularly in London and the South East - are still struggling to fill up vehicles amid driver shortages and supply chain disruption. Pictured, a petrol station in Wimbledon today

Mr Johnson conceded that many people – particularly in London and the South East – are still struggling to fill up vehicles amid driver shortages and supply chain disruption. Pictured, a petrol station in Wimbledon today 

Desperate motorists queue to fuel up at a Tesco in Ely, Cambridgeshire today despite the PM saying the crisis is 'abating'

Desperate motorists queue to fuel up at a Tesco in Ely, Cambridgeshire today despite the PM saying the crisis is 'abating'

Desperate motorists queue to fuel up at a Tesco in Ely, Cambridgeshire today despite the PM saying the crisis is ‘abating’

Vehicles stacked up at a filling station in Newmarket today as the fuel shortage carnage continues

Vehicles stacked up at a filling station in Newmarket today as the fuel shortage carnage continues

Vehicles stacked up at a filling station in Newmarket today as the fuel shortage carnage continues 

The Tories have held on to their lead over Labour in an Opinium poll today despite signs of anger at the government over the fuel crisis

The Tories have held on to their lead over Labour in an Opinium poll today despite signs of anger at the government over the fuel crisis

The Tories have held on to their lead over Labour in an Opinium poll today despite signs of anger at the government over the fuel crisis  

Boris admits MORE tax rises might be needed… but claims Thatcher would have backed his plans 

Boris Johnson today refused completely to rule out more tax rises – but claimed Margaret Thatcher would have backed his plans.

Despite senior Tories warning that the burden is as high as the economy can tolerate, the PM would not go further than saying he would avoid more hikes if he possibly can.

And Mr Johnson prayed the party’s former premier in aide, saying Baroness Thatcher would not have kept borrowing money to finance public services.  

Asked during an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show to rule out further tax hikes, Mr Johnson said: ‘You have no fiercer and more zealous opponent of unnecessary tax rises than me, but we have had to deal with a pandemic on a scale which this country has not seen before in our lifetimes and long before.’

He added: ‘If I can possibly avoid it, I do not want to raise taxes again, of course not, nor does Rishi Sunak.

‘Margaret Thatcher would not have borrowed more money now, I’ll tell you that much for free.’ 

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Mr Johnson warmed up for his busy day in Manchester by going for a morning run. But he sparked bewilderment as he was photographed jogging in a suit shirt, shorts and black socks. It is not clear whether the PM had forgotten to pack his kit, or was cunningly saving on washing. 

The Tory gathering is happened against the backdrop of the fuel crisis, which has led to a critical shortage of petrol on forecourts in London and the South East.

Almost 200 troops are preparing to swing into action to help alleviate the situation from tomorrow.

But although the Petrol Retailers Association has reported a ‘distinct improvement’ in the situation, shortages appeared to be worsening in London and the South East.

A poll today suggested the dire situation is inflicting significant damage on the Tories, with two-thirds blaming the government for the carnage.  

In a bad-tempered interview, Mr Johnson said: ‘When people voted for change in 2016 and when people voted for change again in 2019, they voted for the end of a broken model of the UK economy that relied on low wages and low skills and chronic low productivity – and we’re moving away from that.’

The premier conceded ‘there will be a period of adjustment’ but added ‘that is I think what we need to see’. 

Asked when he was first warned about the HGV driver crisis, Mr Johnson said there have been shortages ‘for a very long time and it’s a chronic problem’.

Told the Road Haulage Association warned him in June, the Prime Minister replied: ‘We’ve known about shortages in road haulage long before then.

‘They’ve been a chronic feature of the way in which the road haulage industry has worked. What needs to happen now is people need to be decently paid and you need to have investment in their conditions.’ 

Mr Johnson of the crisis: ‘It has been abating and what you’re hearing now from the Petrol Retailers’ Association is that supplies are getting on to the forecourts.’

An another interview with broadcasters later, Mr Johnson was challenged again on whether there could be empty shelves this Christmas.

‘We are going to see a period in which the global economy, particularly the UK economy because of the speed of recovery, is sucking in demand very fast,’ he said. 

He said: ‘Christmas, let me tell you this.

‘I’m very confident this Christmas will be considerably better.’

Told that 2020’s Christmas was a low bar given the festive season did not happen at all for most families, Mr Johnson said: ‘This country leads the world, actually, in logistics and supply chains. We’ve got very good supply chains.

‘Where there are issues that we can help with, we will do everything we can.’

Mr Johnson defended his Government’s record on the public finances and promised he opposed ‘unnecessary’ tax rises. 

‘We have had to look after the British people with £407 billion of protection for their jobs, for people’s livelihoods,’ he said.

‘It was most beneficial to the poorest and the neediest in society.’

Asked to rule out further tax hikes, Mr Johnson said: ‘You have no fiercer and more zealous opponent of unnecessary tax rises than me, but we have had to deal with a pandemic on a scale which this country has not seen before in our lifetimes and long before.’

He added: ‘If I can possibly avoid it, I do not want to raise taxes again, of course not, nor does Rishi Sunak.

‘Margaret Thatcher would not have borrowed more money now, I’ll tell you that much for free.’

Mr Johnson said there will be a ‘period of adjustment’ for the UK as he seeks to increase wages and improve conditions. 

‘There will be a period of adjustment but that is what I think we need to see,’ he said.

Mr Johnson also became embroiled in a bizarre exchange with Marr over the prospect of 120,000 pigs being killed and incinerated if there is no answer to the shortage of abattoir and butchery staff in the next 10 days.

‘What you’re talking again about is an issue to do with a shortage of another particular type of workforce,’ Mr Johnson said.

‘Actually, what I think needs to happen is again there is a question about the types of jobs that are being done, the pay that is being offered, the levels of automation, the levels of investment.’

Told again the pigs will be killed and incinerated rather than sold for food, Mr Johnson accused Mr Marr of ‘trying to obfuscate’ the point before the presenter explained food processing to the Prime Minister.

Mr Johnson added: ‘The great hecatomb of pigs that you describe has not yet taken place, let’s see what happens.’

Meanwhile, Tory chairman Oliver Dowden tried to reassure people that there will be no turkey shortages this Christmas. 

He said there were supply chain problems across the world due to lorry driver shortages but issues with turkey production were being addressed.

‘We will make sure that people have their turkeys for Christmas,’ he said.

‘I know that the Environment Secretary George Eustice, this is absolutely top of his list.’

He acknowledged ‘there are challenges with supply chains’ across the economy. We are not unique in the UK in this.

‘If you look across Poland, the US, other countries, there are shortages of drivers – that’s to do with a range of factors.’

Those included an ageing workforce and the lack of driving tests during the pandemic, he added.

Mr Dowden risked setting hares running by insisting his job is to make sure the party machine is ‘ready to go’ for an election.

UK braces for ‘Tier 1’ cyber attack 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has announced the UK is building a new digital warfare centre capable of launching ‘offensive’ cyber attacks against hostile powers.

The new £5billion National Cyber Force headquarters will be built in the north west of England in Samlesbury, Lancashire.

He said the UK is yet to suffer a ‘tier one’ and ‘catastrophic’ cyber attack and it would be a ‘dereliction of duty’ if the Government was not in a position to strike back on the same scale.

The centre will be built in the heart of the so-called ‘Red Wall’ of traditional Labour seats which the Tories took in the 2019 general election.

Boris Johnson is expected to cite the investment in his keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference – which begins this weekend in Manchester – as an example of the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.

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He told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday: ‘The Prime Minister told me to make sure that the Conservative Party machine is ready to go for an election whenever it comes.

‘But also to make sure that I, as the Conservative Party chairman, am a strong voice for the Conservative Party chairman, am a strong voice for the Conservative Party and for conservative values.’

Asked if there would be an election in 2023 – a year ahead of schedule – Mr Dowden said: ‘Right now, we are absolutely focused on getting on with the job of making sure that we deliver for the British people.

‘I can assure you that the Prime Minister, Chancellor, Home Secretary – they are not speculating about elections – day in, day out, sleeves are rolled up, they are focused on delivering what matters to people.’ 

Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association, said the fuel crisis is predominantly affecting London and the South-East.

Mr Madderson said there were only ‘one or two dry sites’ north of London and that the ‘general improvement has continued’, but that the situation in London and the South-East remained difficult.

Speaking to Sky News, he said: ‘It’s all really to do with the population, we have 25 million-plus living in and around London [and the] home counties.’

He said it was one of the world’s greatest metropolitan areas ‘and, of course, to go with that we have a massive amount of delivery vans, a massive amount of vehicles, and that is just the chronic situation’.

As the conference starts, Mr Johnson has announced he will rush through laws to stop protesters from blocking motorways, as he declares his determination to defend the interests of the ‘law-abiding majority’.

Under the planned new legislation, activists who bring vital transport arteries to a standstill will face up to six months in prison or unlimited fines. 

The move follows complaints from the police that they have lacked sufficient powers to stop eco-protesters from the Insulate Britain group from bringing some of the country’s arterial roads such as the M25, M1 and M4 to a standstill.

Some drivers have been stranded in gridlock while taking relatives to hospital or transporting vital supplies. 

The PM has vowed to ‘give the police the powers they need to stop their reckless and selfish behaviour’.

‘The right to protest is sacrosanct, but there is no right to inflict chaos and misery on people trying to go about their lives,’ he said. 

Mr Johnson put on some boxing gloves as he was shown the facilities at the HideOut

Mr Johnson put on some boxing gloves as he was shown the facilities at the HideOut

Mr Johnson put on some boxing gloves as he was shown the facilities at the HideOut  

The PM threw a few punches at a bag as he was taken on a tour in Manchester today

The PM threw a few punches at a bag as he was taken on a tour in Manchester today

The PM threw a few punches at a bag as he was taken on a tour in Manchester today

Under the planned new legislation, activists who bring vital transport arteries to a standstill will face up to six months in prison or unlimited fines

Under the planned new legislation, activists who bring vital transport arteries to a standstill will face up to six months in prison or unlimited fines

Under the planned new legislation, activists who bring vital transport arteries to a standstill will face up to six months in prison or unlimited fines

In other developments as the Tory conference begins today: 

  • Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi condemned Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner for describing Tories as ‘racist’ and ‘scum’, telling the MoS that such ‘demonising’ language was ‘dangerous’, citing the 2016 murder of Labour MP Jo Cox as an example of the risks of incendiary speech;
  • Mr Zahawi also said that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had shown ‘terrible judgment’ by calling for a tax raid on private schools;
  • Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries prepared to throw down the gauntlet to the BBC over its impartiality as it emerged one of the Corporation’s former senior bosses has joined the controversial Chinese tech firm Huawei;
  • Three Labour MPs are considering defecting to the Conservatives after becoming disillusioned by Sir Keir’s leadership, while allies of Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said the Labour leader had a year to improve the party’s poll ratings or face being ousted;
  • Mr Johnson faced calls from Labour to apologise after telling the BBC to ‘never mind’ cancer outcomes and life expectancy – but to ‘look at wage growth’ instead.

Home Secretary Priti Patel will this week unveil the crackdown on motorway protests, with tougher sentences introduced by amending the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

While National Highways has been granted injunctions to prevent people from obstructing roads, officers cannot arrest people for flouting the court orders because it is a civil not a criminal matter.

The new laws are expected to be on the statute book by the turn of the year.

An offence of ‘obstructing a highway’ already exists, but carries only a maximum fine of £1,000.

The proposed increased penalties will mean police can remand protesters in custody after charging them, and create a criminal record for them.

Insulate Britain – which is demanding the Government pay for all homes in the country to be insulated by 2030 – has brought major roads to a standstill with ten protests in less than three weeks. Around 450 arrests have been made.

A senior Government source last night said: ‘We can’t have Labour councillors and crusties making life hell for mothers on the school run and van drivers making vital deliveries.

‘The law does not currently reflect the serious disruption caused by these dangerous actions.’

Ms Patel said: ‘The right to protest is a fundamental principle of our democracy but we will not tolerate guerrilla tactics that obstruct people going about their day-to-day business. 

‘That is why we will increase the maximum penalty for disrupting a motorway to an unlimited fine or up to six months in prison – or both.

‘While the Labour Party stand on the side of these so-called ‘activists’, the Conservative Party will always back the law-abiding, hard-working majority in this country.’

Mr Johnson outlined his hardline stance as he arrived at the Tory Party conference last night. Pictured: Protesters from Insulate Britain block the A20 in Kent on September 24

Mr Johnson outlined his hardline stance as he arrived at the Tory Party conference last night. Pictured: Protesters from Insulate Britain block the A20 in Kent on September 24

Mr Johnson outlined his hardline stance as he arrived at the Tory Party conference last night. Pictured: Protesters from Insulate Britain block the A20 in Kent on September 24 

Link hienalouca.com

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