5 A JOINED-UP RESPONSE
75. There are clearly people providing casual labour
to the industry who do so within the law and provide good terms
and conditions; equally clearly there are a significant number
who do not and are currently operating with little fear of prosecution.
Many of the problems have been around for a number of years: it
is now time for the Government to demonstrate the political will
to tackle them.
76. We do not believe that, to date, the Government
has given sufficient priority to the issues relating to the demand
and supply for temporary labour in the agriculture and horticulture
industry. The abuses within the gangmaster industry are, to varying
degrees, a product of the fall in the supply of casual local labour
in rural areas, the relationship between supermarkets and their
suppliers, and the lack of enforcement of the legislation covering
the employment of temporary labour. Therefore there are implications
for a wide range of Government Departments: the Treasury and its
Executive Agencies; the Home Office; the Department for Work and
Pensions; the Department for Trade and Industry; and Defra itself.
Defra cannot be expected to deal with these issues in isolation
from the rest of Government.
77. This is a policy area which would benefit
significantly from a cross-departmental approach. Unfortunately,
we found no evidence to suggest such an approach has been effectively
applied. The Government needs to deal with the issues we have
identified if it is to realise its vision of a competitive farming
and food industry based on sustainable practices.
78. We therefore recommend that the Government
establish an inter-departmental working group which would report
to a Defra Minister of State with overall responsibility for policy
on gangmasters. The Minister and inter-departmental group should
have a small number of clearly-defined and measurable targets.
Defra should report to us annually on the actions it has taken
and the working group's performance against its targets. We believe
that the Government must demonstrate that it is taking seriously
the problems in the agriculture and horticulture labour markets
and has the political will to tackle them; the establishment of
such an inter-departmental group would go some way to doing so.