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  1. ITV Report

Government action urged over gangmasters

NE Cambridgeshire MP Stephen Barclays has been highlighting the problems of gangmasters Photo:

A Cambridgeshire MP says Whitehall needs to get a grip on abuse by gangmasters and issue many more fines to tackle wrongdoing.

Stephen Barclay said little had changed to crack down on rogue gangmasters since he raised the issue in Parliament last year.

Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday, the North East Cambridgeshire MP said action was urgently needed to ease the pressure on his constituents caused by rogue operators.

Environment Minister David Heath said he was sympathetic to the problems and wanted to see many more criminal prosecutions of bad gangmasters.

Mr Barclay told MPs: "The key way we should be tackling gangmasters is by hitting them in the area they are most concerned about - that's in their pocket, that's fines.

"It's fines that will change the behaviour of gangmasters. It's not all of them, we know there are perfectly respectable gangmasters.

"These issues were raised last year. Other departments have gripped it and have acted. Other departments are acting.

"Not only is the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) not acting, but it is ignoring the assurances that were given to me.

"If cross-departmental Government is to work, then Defra needs to come to the party, it needs to get involved."

"We know there are illegal gangmasters, we know there are heartbreaking issues of abuse taking place in my constituency and those of colleagues... we know there is unwarranted pressure being placed on local residents who often have to bear the consequences of antisocial behaviour that flows from this concentration of houses of multiple occupation and the lack of enforcement against illegal gangmasters."

– Stephen Barclay, Conservative MP for North East Cambridgeshire

Mr Heath warned he was working within an overall Government policy which was resistant to the view civil sanctions were appropriate for dealing with small and medium sized businesses.

He said it was "not insurmountable" but required persuasion inside Government.