The report into the illegal activity of gangmasters has been widely welcomed by the fresh produce industry.

The study by the Environment and Rural Affairs Committee concluded the government was not doing enough to tackle the problem (The Grocer, September 20, p64). Now industry leaders are hoping the report will put pressure on the government to act effectively.

Fresh Produce Consortium chief executive Douglas Henderson said: “Hopefully this report will push the government along.”

The NFU also supported the report’s findings. The union and the FPC agreed with the
committee that a statutory registration scheme for gangmasters without adequate policing would not work.

However, Michael Paske, NFU vice president, said the union was disappointed registration was not recommended as part of a solution. “The committee has missed an opportunity. The recommendations do not go far enough.”

Henderson said the FPC was hopeful a registration scheme backed up by effective enforcement would be introduced. Meantime it has drawn up a code of practice for gangmasters, currently under trial, which could act as a basis for any registration, he added.

The report also criticised the supermarkets, pointing to their dominant position as creating an environment allowing illegal gangmaster activity to take root.

However, those criticisms were rejected by the British Retail Consortium. Richard Ali, director of food, said: “Food retailers have done more than any other part of the food chain to promote good practice in supply chains, but they should not be expected to act as an on-farm police force.”
Ed Bedington