GRANT Shapps last night vowed to save Christmas by allowing 10,500 workers into the UK on temporary visas.
The Transport Secretary said 5,000 HGV fuel tanker and food lorry drivers could stay until December 24.
Paperwork for 5,500 poultry workers will also be signed off to ensure turkeys are ready for Christmas Day.
Mr Shapps said: “After a very difficult 18 months, I know how important this Christmas is for all of us.
“That’s why we’re taking these steps at the earliest opportunity to ensure preparations remain on track.”
Ministers also plan to send one million letters to HGV drivers thanking them for the “vital role” they play in the economy in the hope that some leavers will return.
The letters will point out that haulage sector wages are rising, with employers keener to offer flexible working.
In another move, 4,000 people will be trained as new HGV drivers — 3,000 of them on a £10million “Skills Bootcamp” free to recruits.
Ministry of Defence driving examiners will help increase the HGV testing capacity.
The Food and Drink Federation said the measures were “a start” but called for “long-term solutions”.
The British Retail Consortium urged an extension to the visa scheme “in size and scope” to HGV drivers in all sectors of the retail industry.
It said supermarkets alone need 15,000 more to run at full capacity.
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