Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Fourteenth Report


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.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003
Prepared 18 September 2003