Responsibility for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority has moved from Defra to the Home Office.

The move – announced by the prime minister on 9 April – would enhance the GLA’s enforcement and intelligence capabilities, Number 10 said.

The GLA would now sit alongside the National Crime Agency (NCA), giving it access to “expert support from the NCA’s intelligence hub” and “the resources and reach of the NCA’s 4,500 officers and its international presence in 40 countries, through national tasking and co-ordination mechanisms”.

Its remit and funding would be unaffected by GLA’s transfer from Defra to the Home Office, Number 10 added.

The move was welcomed by the The Association of Labour Providers, which represents the interests of businesses regulated by the GLA.

“Alignment and joint working with the National Crime Agency will boost the GLA’s capacity to dismantle and disrupt serious and organised crime and will increase its ability to identify and tackle human trafficking,” said ALP director David Camp. “The next step for the government is to extend the remit of the GLA to protect vulnerable workers to the wider labour market.  It may be that rather than adopting a sector by sector approach, a means of defining vulnerable workers who would fall within the protection remit of the GLA is sought instead.”

Camp urged the government not to abandon the GLA licensing regime altogether, saying it had contributed to significant improvements in labour standards. “Statutory licensing of labour providers in these sectors is supported by retailers, food producers and over 80% of labour providers who believe that it facilitates a fairer competitive trading environment.  To remove licensing would be a significant backwards step.”

The GLA was set up in 2004 in the wake of the deaths of 23 Chinese cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay. It licenses businesses that provide workers to the farming, food processing and shellfish gathering sectors.