The Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has suggested hiring low-level criminal offenders could help ease the current fuel supply crisis.
Mr Raab said that those serving community sentences could be drafted in to help address the HGV driver shortage which has led to current panic buying at filling stations.
The Government has already said that army drivers are on standby to start driving tankers in the next few days along with civilian drivers already making deliveries using its reserve tanker fleet.
However, Mr Raab suggested that those serving unpaid community sentences could be given “skin in the game” by offering them paid work in sectors where there are currently staff shortages.
In comments to The Spectator and reported in The Times, the Justice Secretary rejected Labour’s idea of issuing 100,000 migrant visa to lorry drivers from abroad to ease the driver shortage, saying it would leave the UK reliant on cheap labour from abroad.
He said employers should be raising wages to attract domestic staff but added that an alternative way to address shortages was to use low-level offenders.
He said: “We’ve been getting prisoners and offenders to do volunteering and unpaid work.
“Why not if there are shortages encourage them to do paid work where there’s a benefit for the economy, benefit for society?
“If you give people skin in the game, give them something to lose, if you give them some hope, they’re much less likely to re-offend.”
The shortage of HGV drivers has led to supply issues for retailers across the country and in the last week has led to panic buying after BP announced it had had to close some stations due to delivery problems.
The Government has insisted the situation is improving but the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) said that in a survey on Wednesday just over a quarter of its members had still run out of supplies, although this was down from more than a third on Tuesday.
PRA executive director Gordon Balmer said petrol station staff were being subjected to a “high level” of physical and verbal abuse from drivers.
He commented: “There are encouraging signs that the crisis at the pumps is easing, with forecourts reporting that they are taking further deliveries of fuel.
“However, we are extremely disappointed to hear many forecourt staff are experiencing a high level of both verbal and physical abuse, which is completely unacceptable.”