Gangmaster police told to rein back

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DEFRA has agreed to take a lot of land workers out from under the supervision of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, curb its power and activities and make its licensing process simpler and cheaper.

The new ‘light touch’ policy looks like a surprisingly wide-ranging response to complaints about GLA bureaucracy – it even exempts some shellfish-gathering activities.

The authority was set up in 2005, to protect casual labourers from exploitation, after 21 Chinese cockle pickers drowned in Morecambe Bay in 2004.

Forestry contractors and others have been complaining about the cost and form-filling imposed on businesses recognised as being low risk.

And on Thursday Defra minister James Paice said he was telling the GLA to concentrate on the necessary.

He said: “We’ll be using a much more targeted approach to clamp down where action is most needed.

“Responsible employers who play by the rules will be freed from unnecessary costs and bureaucracy.”

He said the GLA had been told to lay off proven low-risk sectors, including forestry contractors and land agents.

Defra has allowed a year to discuss the detail but its announcement left little room for doubt that the GLA has been firmly told to curb its enthusiasm.

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