Clause 3 - Administration and enforcement
Gangmasters (Licensing) Bill
Mr Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness, Conservative)
I am grateful for that response.
''It is important that the right balance is achieved with the rules, and that the rules relate directly to existing legislation. If the GLA introduced too many, too complex rules than was reasonably required for the purpose then the grant of licences could become cumbersome and bureaucratic''—
we covered some of that argument before—
''and of course increase the overall costs of the scheme and pitch licence fees upwards to excessive levels'',
which might deter the legitimate supply of labour, as I pointed out.
That brings me neatly to the regulatory impact assessment, which suggests that the cost of an audit of a legitimate gangmaster who is meeting the legal obligations could be as much as £1,500. That is in addition to the administrative costs of processing and issuing the licence and maintaining the register, which could be a further £750. I understand that those figures are based on a two or three-year licence. I should like to understand why those costs are so high, particularly in comparison to those that apply under the Private Security Industry Act 2001, which total only £190. The disparity between the two figures is large. I, my constituents, businesses in the horticultural and agricultural sectors and legitimate gangmasters all wish to avoid penalising the latter with provisions that are over-burdensome—not only in terms of bureaucracy, but in terms of unnecessary cost.
New clause 8(2)(f) would allow the authority to grant provisional licences before it had been determined whether the requirements for the granting of a licence had been met. That unnerves me and some legitimate gangmaster operators who believe that some rogue operators may obtain licences, however temporary, and operate without meeting the relevant criteria. It would be wrong to allow that to happen, even if only for a limited time. Why cannot we have beginners criteria, which might be linked to the sending of tax and VAT returns to the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise?
New clause 15 deals with enforcement. From reading the Bill, it is not clear to me who the enforcement officers will be. Will they be from Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise or the new merged body? Will they be immigration officers? Where will they come from, and who will fund their operations? Which Government Minister will be responsible for them and, ultimately, answerable to this House and the other place? How will the officers liaise with local police? I have consulted the police in Lincolnshire and they are enthusiastic about the Bill, provided that it is correct, but they want to make sure
that there is an understanding about how police will link with the enforcement operators.
I appreciate that that will become apparent in secondary legislation, but I am concerned that, at this stage, there seem to be no defined mechanisms or structures in place. Will the Minister provide assurances regarding the likely number of enforcement and compliance offices that will be required? Will the resources necessary to fund them be forthcoming? Where will that funding come from? I do not mean to be difficult, but, at the moment, there is a lack of co-ordination. Insufficient resources have been put in place to enforce the existing legislation. We need to make sure that that gap does not continue.
As the Minister said, we must catch those who continue to ignore the rules. That is far harder than penalising licensed operators for minor compliance issues, and it may involve considerable resources and manpower. Where will those resources and manpower emanate from?