New Clause 1 — Enabling provision to enable the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to tackle modern day slavery

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 4:30 pm on 4th November 2014.

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Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 4:30 pm, 4th November 2014

I will address the hon. Gentleman’s points in the course of my remarks.

You will know, Madam Deputy Speaker, that my hon. Friend Jim Sheridan introduced legislation on gangmasters in 2004. I pay tribute to him, because that is effective legislation. It has protected workers in three key sectors—agriculture, shellfish collection and horticulture. It has done something all hon. Members should be proud of: it has driven out poor standards, protected work forces, and ensured that we do not undercut legitimate workers in those sectors.

My argument in new clause 1 is that we should give the power to the Secretary of State to extend that. Following the Government’s triennial review, they said:

“There is no change to the remit or funding of the agency”,

yet there is ample evidence that the agency should have its work extended, particularly following the Joint Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill, on which a number of hon. Members present in the House served. The Committee considered a number of issues in detail, including the role of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. In paragraph 189 of its report, the Committee states:

“There was consensus from our witnesses over the excellent reputation of the GLA…the GLA has been held in high regard as an example of good practice.”

In paragraph 190, it states:

“We heard from the Authority itself that there are limitations to what the GLA can currently do. Its Chief Executive, Paul Broadbent, told us that the GLA’s underpinning legislation was ‘good up to a point’, but did not provide for the GLA to carry out what he described as ‘hot pursuit’”.

The Committee said:

“Several witnesses made the case for widening the industrial remit of the GLA to other sectors where forced labour is prevalent”,

and that:

“The weight of evidence we received suggested that expanding the GLA’s powers and industrial remit would yield positive results.”

The Committee was comprised of Members of both Houses from all parties, but the TUC report, “Hard Work, Hidden Lives” concluded:

“The GLA needs to be extended to hospitality, construction and catering as these are usually small businesses that are open to abuse.”

Oxfam, which hon. Members will agree is a well-respected charity, has said:

“Gangmasters have diversified into sectors beyond the reach of the GLA where there is less regulation of labour standards.”

It concluded that

“the GLA’s remit must immediately be extended to the sectors of construction, hospitality, and…care”.