THE GOVERNMENT has come under fire for not doing enough to solve the problem of gangmasters who supply illegal immigrants as labour to farms and packhouses.

The environment, food and rural affairs select committee said the government had failed to research the nature and extent of the problem of illegal gangmasters.

Without this research it was very difficult to develop policies to respond to the issue, it added.

In a report published on Thursday (May 20), MPs also said they were now persuaded that a system of licensing was necessary to deal with the problem of illegal gangmasters.

But they added that they were worried by two aspects of the current proposals.

First, it was essential that licensed gangmasters were given a reliable form of identification so farmers could easily identify who was legitimate.

Second, MPs said the cost of a licence must be kept to a minimum.

“We are concerned that if the cost of the licence is too high some farmers and others might be tempted to use unlicensed gangmasters due to their lower costs.”

Committee chairman Michael Jack said it was clear the lack of a concerted approach by the government was leaving thousands of people vulnerable to exploitation.

“The fact that illegal gangmasters continue to trade is deeply unfair to the legitimate providers of temporary labour,” he said.