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Tory peer and Next boss Lord Wolfson warns labour shortages are ‘real problem’

‘Something is going seriously wrong in our economy’: Tory peer and Next boss Lord Wolfson warns labour shortages are ‘real problem’ and prices will spiral unless firms are allowed to recruit more foreign workers

  • Lord Wolfson said ‘something is going seriously wrong’ with the British economy 
  • Sectors of the economy are experiencing ‘real panic and despondency’ 
  • He said companies in the restaurant and care industry were facing problems
  • Government announced it would approve 10,500 temporary visas


Tory peer and Next boss Lord Wolfson has warned labout shortages are a ‘real problem’ and prices will spiral unless firms are allowed to recruit more foreign workers.  

Lord Wolfson said ‘something is going seriously wrong in our economy’ when restaurants are not able to serve meals because they do not have the staff. 

Sectors of economy are experiencing ‘real panic and despondency’ over the impact of labour shortages, the chief executive of Next added.

He said while the problems for Next were ‘relatively mild’ at the moment other companies in the restaurant, hotel industry and care industry were facing issues.  

Labour shortages are a real problem,’ Lord Wolfson told ITV News.

‘When you have restaurants saying they can’t serve meals because they haven’t got the staff to open their restaurant, something is going seriously wrong in our economy.’

Lord Wolfson (pictured) said ‘something is going seriously wrong in our economy’ when restaurants are not able to serve meals because they do not have the staff

The Government recently announced it would approve 10,500 temporary visas over the next two months to try and ease shortages.

But Lord Wolfson said the measures were not enough. He said rather than solving the issue with ‘people throwing brickbats at each other’ ministers needed to sit down with businesses to ‘design a system that delivers the best of both worlds’. 

The Next chief also called on the Government to allow businesses to ‘get visas for the skills that they desperately need’.

His comments come after Boris Johnson told businesses they cannot ‘use immigration as an excuse for failure to invest’ in workers as he vowed to build a ‘high wage’ post-Brexit Britain today.           

Asked if big business did not not want any control on immigration, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Absolutely not. 

‘What I’ve suggested is that we have a market-led solution whereby businesses can get visas for the skills that they desperately need, but with two conditions. 

‘The first is that they have to pay those people who are coming from overseas the same wages as they pay UK workers and over and above that they have to pay a visa tax on top of that, let’s say 7 per cent of wages. 

‘That way we can have a market-led solution that ensures that people aren’t being brought into the UK to undercut UK workers, because they’ll always be more expensive and it provides the skills that Britain desperately needs to keep its industries moving.’ 

In his Conservative Party conference speech, Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended his restrictions on foreign workers and told activists the Government was ’embarking now on the change of direction that has been long overdue in the UK economy’. 

Lord Wolfson said: ‘I think that that approach leads to queues at petrol stations and pigs being unnecessarily shot, so I don’t think that’s a particularly constructive approach. 

In his Conservative Party conference speech, Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured) defended his restrictions on foreign workers and told activists the Government was 'embarking now on the change of direction that has been long overdue in the UK economy'

In his Conservative Party conference speech, Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured) defended his restrictions on foreign workers and told activists the Government was ’embarking now on the change of direction that has been long overdue in the UK economy’

‘Rather than try and solve this problem with people throwing brickbats at each other, we sit down together, work through and design a system that delivers the best of both worlds.’ 

Lord Wolfson said he has ‘not yet’ received a response from ministers after raising the issue. 

Asked about the outlook for the next few months, he said: ‘What we’re experiencing is relatively mild, in terms of the business that I work for we will get through Christmas, our next day delivery may deteriorate, it may not be quite as good a service as our customers are used to and that would be a shame. 

‘But when I talk to people who are in the restaurant industry or the hotel industry or the care home industry, there is real panic and despondency.’ 

In his keynote speech to the Tory faithful today, the Prime Minister said there would be no more ‘drift and dither’ about ‘Levelling Up’ the country – arguing that was what was voted for in the 2016 referendum.

Swiping at predecessors David Cameron and Theresa May and defying business fury over supply chain disruption, he said he had the ‘guts’ to push ahead with big reforms.

He also insisted there is ‘no alternative’ to shifting away from a ‘broken’ immigration-reliant economy. 

Lord Wolfson said the Government was risking uncontrollable price rises by chasing a policy of forcing companies to pay their staff more. 

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