The Gangmasters Licensing Authority is to stop automatic checks on new applicants in favour of a “discretionary” approach to “reduce the burden on business”. It covers 700,000 workers in food-related industries alone but has only 31 staff at its HQ and 37 inspectors – and its budget has been cut by 20 per cent.
It will not concentrate on areas deemed to have “no serious risk of exploitation”, and instead focus on supposedly high crime areas involving drugs, money laundering, people trafficking, etc. It will no longer regulate forestry, land agents and cleaning – all of which would not be subject to licence or inspections.
The authority was set up following the deaths of the Chinese cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay in 2004. Since 2006 it has regulated employment agencies, labour providers and gangmasters providing workers for the fresh food and horticulture industry. ■