Boris Johnson treats companies like “scarecrows” and unfairly blames them for shortages in their industries, said a supermarket boss.
The Prime Minister was strongly condemned by business leaders following his speech at the Conservative Party conference on Wednesday for what they claimed was the lack of a coherent economic plan amid labor shortages. workers are hitting supply chains, leading to empty shelves and queues at gas stations.
Mr Johnson said he was exposing the “difficult” process of reshaping the UK economy and defended his strategy of restricting the supply of cheap foreign labor after Brexit, insisting that his new approach would ultimately create a “low-tax economy”.
But business leaders have criticized his approach, with many saying restricting migration could lead to higher inflation and increased costs for consumers.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said on Thursday that opening the country up to more foreign workers “doesn’t really solve the problem in the long run.”
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today show: “The way you do it is to hone and retrain and what the Prime Minister said in his speech is skills, skills, skills.”
However, Richard Walker – chief executive of Iceland and voter of Leave – said “harsh rhetoric just isn’t helpful” to struggling businesses.
He told Today: “I don’t think it’s particularly useful at the moment. Businesses face so many different crises that have all gotten worse at the same time.
“Pointing out and picking us as the bogeyman for issues like the truck driver shortage – which is multifaceted and systemic – just isn’t helpful.”
Mr Zahawi denied that the Tories – traditionally seen as the business party – blame corporations.
Asked on Sky News whether the Tories are “on the road to war with business,” Zahawi replied, “I disagree with you.
“What I would tell everyone is to work together.
“We have seen retailers who have invested in technology and have been very successful. Others like Topshop and Topman did not make this investment and did not do as well.
“We have seen SMEs take advantage of () £ 100 billion in grants and loans to support SMEs. This is what this government is doing to help businesses.
“Let’s do this together. Let’s produce this high-wage, high-skill economy, because it is doable. “
Mr Zahawi said today that in sectors such as retail and distribution, companies “are moving in a direction Boris is advocating”.
Quoting a major fruit and vegetable supplier in his constituency who is doing well, he said: “They are investing in automation and obviously (to) have to invest in their staff as well, to develop them and upgrade them to work. with automation. that they present.
“Those who are successful invest in their people and in automation. “
The Federation of Small Businesses criticized Mr Johnson’s 45-minute conference speech, saying Labor, not Tories, is the only party with a “pro small business policy”.
The free market think tank, the Adam Smith Institute, called the prime minister’s speech “explosive but empty and economically illiterate,” while conservative think tank Bright Blue said there was no “No new vision or inspiring policy”.
When asked who the business party was Mr Walker said: ‘I still hope it’s the Tories and of course they have the story there, but it’s frustrating and I think nobody takes a step back and looks at what kind of cumulative impact all these different issues have on business.
“Iceland is a relatively big business and we’re going to get by, but of course a lot of the small businesses are not, businesses with no cash reserves.
“And I think, you know, that’s a time when harsh rhetoric just isn’t helpful.”