Skip to main content

Gangmasters Licensing Authority

Volume 553: debated on Monday 19 November 2012

14. What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the effectiveness of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority in tackling trafficked labour. (128827)

The Gangmasters Licensing Authority plays a key role in protecting workers who may be exploited in the agriculture, shellfish, and food processing and packaging industries. A recent Government review streamlined its remit to focus on suspected serious and organised crime, working more closely with the Serious Organised Crime Agency and other specialist law enforcement agencies.

I thank the Minister for that endorsement of the work of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, particularly given the recent evidence of the Noble/Freedom Food eggs scandal, which was described as the worst case of human trafficking the Gangmasters Licensing Authority had ever seen. However, would it not be better if the Government took on the principles contained in my Transparency in UK Company Supply Chains (Eradication of Slavery) Bill so that companies ordering those goods have a responsibility to trace right back to the source what is happening in the supply chain and we stop that kind of abuse of workers who come here to pick and work in our farms?

I certainly recognise the serious nature of the crimes the hon. Gentleman highlights and am sure that he will welcome a number of the joint operations with the Serious Organised Crime Agency—in a recent case, 30 Lithuanians were freed as a consequence. I hope that he will also welcome the work of colleagues in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills who have recently put out for public consultation legislation on the human rights reporting requirements of quoted companies, which we believe will go a long way towards addressing the concerns highlighted in his Bill.

In human trafficking, far more people are exploited for labour than for sex, and the Minister is right to concentrate on organised gangs. Will he expand a little on how the Government will target organised gangs?

I know that my hon. Friend has a long-standing commitment to and interest in this important issue. I highlight the creation of the new National Crime Agency with an attached border command, which will harness greater intelligence. The national human trafficking centre will form part of that and will, we believe, really strengthen the approach in combating that appalling crime.