Ex-Tesco chief drafted in to help with supply chain crises

Lewis appointed after fuel shortages and PM's promise to "save Christmas"
The appointment comes amid concerns about fuel shortages, after panic buying last month. Photo: Rob Matthews/Alamy Stock Photo

Boris Johnson has appointed the former chief executive of Tesco as the government’s supply chain adviser amid increasing concern about fuel and food shortages.

Sir David Lewis, who was the supermarket’s chief exec from 2014 to 2020, will advise the prime minister and Cabinet Office minister Stephen Barclay on both “immediate improvements and any necessary long term changes” to goods supply chains, No.10 said in a statement.

He will also “work with government officials to quickly resolve acute, short term issues”.

The announcement came after petrol shortages that started last month, sparking panic buying as many petrol stations ran dry. Supermarkets have also been supply chain delays in recent months, with shelves missing particular products, and there are fears this could worsen before Christmas.

Atempting to reassure people that the fuel crisis was stabalising at the end of September, the PM said the government would “make sure that we have all the preparations necessary to get through to Christmas and beyond, not just in the supply in the petrol stations, but all parts of our supply chain”.

No.10's announcement this week said Lewis's job would include “both identifying the causes of current blockages and pre-empting potential future ones, and advising on resolutions either through direct government action or through industry with government support".

“Building on the current government approach, he will work closely with industry to improve government access to data and build the most effective methods into future responses to blockages,” it added. 

He will co-chair a new Supply Chain Advisory Group, which No.10 said is made up of unnamed "external experts in the field"., and Industry Taskforce.

In a statement, the PM said: "I’m pleased that Sir David Lewis is joining the team who have been working on future proofing our supply chains across the United Kingdom as we recover from the pandemic.

"There are currently global supply issues which we are working with industry to mitigate and Dave brings a wealth of experience which will help us continue to protect our businesses and supply chains."

Responding to the announcement, Hannah Essex, co-executive director of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Hopefully Sir David, and the new groups he co-chairs, will be able to hit the ground running and urgently address some of the critical issues damaging business conditions."

“For several weeks we have been calling on government to get round the table with business and work together to find solutions to the big challenges facing firms large and small this autumn," she added.

She said the government should consider implementing "further constructive solutions" put forward by the BCC, "not least on short-term visas, to see us through the difficult months ahead and enable businesses across the country to get back to growth and prosperity”.

Lewis took up the job yesterday and will stay on until the end of the year.

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