Though stressing he did not want to make the gangmaster system illegal as it played a vital role in many industries, Simmonds claimed it was now creating problems. "Some suppliers of gang labour use abusive, evasive, intimidating, fraudulent and exploitative practices,” claimed the MP. His bill proposes mandatory registration licences with a compulsory code of practice. The scheme would be self-financing through an annual levy.illegal immigrants to tax dodging as just some of the activities of gangmasters.
In response, the committee recommends the revitalisation of the government’s Operation Gangmaster, which in its current form was described as a “woefully inadequate response”. The new operation should be under the direct leadership of a DEFRA minister, have its own budget and be set clear aims and objectives. The retailers were also called upon to re-examine their labour policies.
However, surprisingly, the committee did not recommend a registration scheme for gangmasters, something many in the industry were hoping for.
Committee chairman David Curry MP said: “Responsibility does not just lie with government. The industry has much to do if this is not to become an integral part of the way produce reaches tables.”
Barney Holbeche, NFU head of parliamentary affairs, welcomed the report but said: “Our view is there is a place for statutory registration backed by enforcement. We are disappointed the committee felt it would not solve the problem.”