Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Mr D Piccaver (V8)


  Legitimate gangmasters are in existence because sectors of the agricultural and horticultural industries have demanded it—ie because the employer has on good business practice or on moral grounds demanded assurance and confirmation by signing a declaration that the said gangmaster will provide casual labour whom are legally permitted to work or be in the UK. It is also fair to say in the last five to seven years the multiple retail, and prepared food sectors have also demanded assurance of ethical standards with regard to employment of casual or long term casual workers.

  However there is in the food chain, the other side of the coin, no moral or ethical standards and these are not required by the wholesale sector—small shop sector or catering sector. This creates a market place where non-compliance of minimum wage or "any wage goes" because the "illegals" are at a disadvantage by fact of deportation or prosecution if caught. This creates a two tier labour market which immediately puts those who do the job properly at a severe economic disadvantage.


  The economic factor is a strong force, with very severe competition at all levels of the supply chain, producers, packers, prepared food companies and retailers.

  Therefore the temptation is high with no proper statutory controls over illegals, to employ illegals where one can get away with it whether through lack of legal or commercial requirements.

  Therefore where labour represents 30-70% of the production cost the temptation to employ "cheap" labour is high and creates unfair competition.


  These people come to work in this country for solely economic reasons, it produces other spin offs in creating links in those countries where they come from. This assumes they are paid properly and treated fairly and with every consideration that a UK citizen currently enjoys.

  The horticultural industry and other sectors of the supply chain would, without a doubt, collapse without these people being available to us—I must stress this point.

  The stigma of illegals and "hyped" press reporting is a serious threat to this sector and the ability to hire these people for work. It is vital for measures to be taken to achieve measured regulation—(1) registration of gangmasters and labour providers; (2) ID cards would sort out many issues.


  I have already said, unfair competition is here, where labour is a major cost in the process, the ability to squeeze those in the food chain who provide good wages and conditions are put under too much pressure.

  The whole problem is driven by economics, these people want to work and the consumer wants high quality safe food at the most economic price.

  We need to see the appropriate action taken after careful consideration.

David Piccaver

28 April 2003

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