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Scottish Affairs Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 156
Taken before the Scottish Affairs Committee
on Tuesday 10 July 2012
Mr Ian Davidson (Chair)
Mr Alan Reid
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Nancy Kelley, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Dr Alistair Geddes, University of Dundee, and Professor Gary Craig, Durham University, gave evidence.
Q231 Chair: I welcome you to this meeting of the Scottish Affairs Committee to discuss your report on "Experiences of Forced Labour in the UK Food Industry". First, because we are the Scottish Affairs Committee, we do not have the same amount of interest in what is happening in the rest of the world; we are interested, but we do not have responsibility for exploring it. We are, therefore, particularly interested in the Scottish dimension. Secondly, we are tying this up in our own minds with the two inquiries that we have running; one is about blacklisting in employment, and the other relates to health and safety. We will want to tease out those particular issues from the report and give them a greater degree of salience than might otherwise have been the case, had we simply been reviewing the work that you have undertaken. Can you start by introducing yourselves and telling us a little bit about your background, for the record, before we go on to the body of the report? Who starts in these situations?
Professor Craig: We will go from right to left.
Dr Geddes: I am Alistair Geddes. I work in the geography department of the university of Dundee and have been there for about six years. My broad area of interest is human geography, around issues of population change and population inequality. I have done a variety of projects broadly covering that topic in the last few years.
Professor Craig: I am Gary Craig. I am currently professor of community development and social justice at the university of Durham, but I am also an emeritus professor in Hull, where I still have some tenure in the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, which does what it says on the tin. Five or six years ago, I wrote a scoping report for Rowntree that looked at issues of contemporary slavery in the United Kingdom. From that, a number of initiatives have emerged, which Rowntree has been funding. There are other projects in which I have been involved outwith the Rowntree research and to which we may make reference later. Generally, they are in the area either of forced labour or of trafficking for sexual purposes.
Nancy Kelley: I am Nancy Kelley. I am deputy director of policy and research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. I lead our programmes of work that are focused around poverty and place, which include a large body of work on labour markets. Our forced labour programme sits within that, looking at deregulation of the labour market, experiences in the labour market, and poverty and inequality.
Q232 Chair: You have written a report. Tell us about it. The easiest way to set it in context is for you to outline to us, for the record, what your report was, how it was set up and what you discovered. We will then pursue some issues with you.
Professor Craig: I have a longstanding connection with Scotland. I think I am one one-hundred-and-twenty-fourth part Scots, which is why I thought it appropriate for me to wear my Gordon tie today. However, I will defer to my Scots colleague to kick off, since you have a focus on Scotland.
Dr Geddes: This project report was written in response to a call from Rowntree’s forced labour programme. Part of the overall programme was to try to gather testimony evidence from people who were in forced labour situations. Gary, myself and our other collaborator, Sam Scott, who is currently at Exeter university, put in a bid. Our plan was to try to gain a range of testimony evidence from across the food industry as a whole-what we called a field-to-fork case study-recognising the diversity of, and the different industries within, the sector, from agriculture and farming, and the labour attached to that, through to minority ethnic catering and fast-food restaurants, and a variety of processing sorts of jobs in between.
In the end, it took us the good part of two years to do the research. We employed a range of researchers in five case study areas, the three main ones being the south-west of England, south Lincolnshire and east-central Scotland, which I guess is why we are here today. We employed what we called community interviewers. These people were foreign nationals, because we recognised that a lot of the issues that we were addressing were around migrant workers falling into particular sorts of labour situations. We used these researchers because we lacked the positionality and language to be able to do this research ourselves. They went on to do 62 interviews overall, with a variety of different people in the study areas. Some additional work was done in London by a Chinese researcher who came into the project a little bit later.
Based on the interviews, which were translated and transcribed, we tried to draw out some of the common threads relating to the practices that people were experiencing that led them to be in conditions of exploitation that, in extreme cases, could lead to forced labour situations. In the research, we highlighted a number of what we called forced labour practices that we found were commonly used across a range of employers and parts of the food sector. There are 14 of those, which are detailed in the report. I will leave them for now; perhaps we can go into them in a little bit more detail later. We then tried to identify a number of different forms of outcomes for the workers. We concentrated on five or six particular themes.
We were taking quite a general view on the subject of forced labour. Although forced labour legislation is now in place in the UK, we were interested more generally in the structural conditions that led workers, particularly migrant workers, into problematic positions, and the nature of the practices that they then experienced.
Professor Craig: It is perhaps worth saying that our starting point was the six indicators that the International Labour Organization has identified as constituting forced labour. The general view in this country is that the presence of a couple of those in an individual case is almost prima facie evidence that forced labour exists. Obviously, what we found was evidence not only of those six indicators but others of a wider range, to which Alistair has referred. We are talking about things like the withholding of documents, the threat of violence and so on. These were the kinds of issues that we were looking at.
Nancy Kelley: It may be helpful to put that in the context of some other studies and some of the structural factors that may be as relevant in Scotland as elsewhere. We have published a number of studies, including one by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research that looks at the business drivers of forced labour, and studies looking at the regulatory environment, the Chinese community and forced labour in Northern Ireland. At a very basic level, it is probably helpful for us to outline what we think the drivers may be in terms of the structure of the industries. That may help to connect to your inquiry into blacklisting.
We have a greatly more flexible labour market. A lot of regulation of the labour market is done primarily from an employer perspective. Within that, we see great pressure on costs in certain kinds of industries, leading to an intensification of work. When you take that with variability in labour demand, as you get in agriculture or, indeed, construction, it creates a two-tier labour force. You may have one set of workers who have relatively normal pay and conditions, and another set of workers who are subject to exploitation and forced labour. Layered on top of that is the increased use of agency and contracting labour, or bogus self-employment, which is really common in the construction industry. There is a set of structures in the types of sector where we see forced labour occurring, which would be true of agriculture but would be equally true of, say, care provision or construction. That is something that runs through all of our studies.
Q233 Chair: Can I make one point at the beginning? It is very easy to discuss this subject in an academic, dry-as-dust way, but some of these things are absolutely outrageous. It makes me wonder why you are not jumping up and down, and why, in many ways, the report has not been written with a greater degree of passion. Is that simply because you have to have academic credibility, and academic credibility means being boring? Can you explain to me the juxtaposition of the outrage that I felt when I read some of this and heard it being described, with the academic language, some of which I do not understand completely, when it is on the page? Is that the only way that this can be dealt with?
Professor Craig: No. It is horses for courses. When you write a research report on something that is highly emotive and controversial, the danger is that the media will get hold of it and produce some rather trivialised account, but you are absolutely right to be outraged. We are talking about kinds of situations that might, in extremis, lead to death, at worst, or, conceivably, to rape, serious injury or very serious hardship. I managed the case study in south Lincolnshire, where people have gone into the labour market, been blown out the other side as a result of exploitation by employers, and are now alcoholic or drug dependent and living rough on the banks of the river outside Boston. They cannot or do not want to get home, or they are barely able to make decisions. They are people who have been through this kind of situation; they have not exactly lost the will to live, but they have lost the capacity to make sensible decisions. They certainly have no ability to engage with the labour market any more, because of the way they have been treated there. If you are outraged, we are, too. If we were speaking to camera in various other kinds of situations, we might dare, rather like Andy Murray, to let a little of our emotion slip.
Q234 Jim McGovern: Thanks to Alistair, Gary and Nancy for coming along. Alistair, I think you said that you took evidence from 62 witnesses.
Dr Geddes: That is right.
Jim McGovern: The Committee-and myself in particular-is currently trying to identify witnesses who would be prepared to tell us of their experiences. Rather than reinvent the wheel, do you think that some of the witnesses from whom you took evidence would be prepared to give us evidence? I realise that the work force can be very transient; people may be there for the summer season and then go back to Poland, Lithuania or wherever.
Dr Geddes: That is a good question. You are right to say that one of people’s responses when they have problems is sometimes to try to escape them in whichever way they can. Sometimes, for people who are migrant workers, that means going back. Going back is not necessarily the solution, as some people who went back were very ashamed to carry with them stories of what they had gone through or, if you like, gone without, in the sense that they had not made money, had not made their fortune in the UK and had not seen the best part of the UK, which were the very reasons why they had come. They were going to an equally problematic situation back home; it is not as if they were just escaping.
You asked whether the people we spoke to could come forward for this inquiry. In theory, that is possible, but there are some riders on that. When we speak to these people as researchers, we say that we are doing so in relation to a specific piece of research. We give them a guarantee, if you like, that what we will ask them about is tied to a piece of research of which they have an understanding and for which they give their informed consent. This is the due ethical process that we are required and obliged to go through. It is for both our benefit and the benefit of those whom we speak to. The first thing to do would be to find out who might still be in the UK and we could still make contact with. We would then have to tell them that there was a new inquiry. If they felt minded to give their consent for this inquiry, it would be up to them to do so, provided that they had information about it. That is the nature of the process that we would have to go through.
Q235 Jim McGovern: Obviously, this is an inquiry, whereas you call your project research. Did the witnesses who gave evidence for your research insist on anonymity, or were they quite prepared to be named?
Dr Geddes: They did not insist on it, but we structure our research in such a way that we have to think about that issue and confidentiality. Those are standard ethical principles to which we are required to adhere as researchers. While there are lots of quotations in the report to give the real power of what was happening to individuals, everything was through the use of pseudonyms. One of the things that we would have to think about is what reprisals a worker might face, if they were still in a work situation. We would have to be very mindful of that fact.
Professor Craig: We are talking about a situation that is criminal and violent. We are talking about people who, while they are the victims of what has been happening, still feel, as Alistair said, a profound sense of guilt, almost as if it is their fault that they find themselves in the situation, when actually it is often a combination of a lack of good English, accident and design on the part of employers. If you think of the parallel with victims of rape, it is fairly recent in policy and practice that victims of rape have been treated in a sensitive and careful manner that does not start from the assumption that "they asked for it." I think that people have a very strong sense of guilt and, also, fear; they are very fearful.
We did offer people the opportunity to choose a pseudonym for themselves. Finding them was incredibly difficult, which is why it took so long. We engaged with community researchers. For example, to talk to Polish migrant workers, we engaged Polish interviewers. We trained them, gave them a very clear code of conduct, a code of safety and all the rest of it. I remember one of these interviewers ringing me up in a bit of a panic halfway through and saying, "I have sent you a transcript, and unfortunately I have used this woman’s real name. Please ignore the real name; this is the name under which she wanted to be known." It is very difficult to find people who are prepared to speak about their experience, partly because half of them, on average, will have gone back to their country of origin or left the labour market. The remainder are anxious to continue their employment. It is a situation very much at the bottom of the labour market, where fear is one of the prevailing emotions that people feel.
Q236 Jim McGovern: I am the MP for Dundee West, so Dundee university is within my constituency. There is certainly a perception that there is exploitation in the agricultural sector in Perth and Kinross and in Angus. Did your research concentrate on those areas?
Dr Geddes: That was the initial reason for choosing that area. It was to do with the concentration of large numbers of accession-country workers who were arriving in what we called east-central Scotland, including Dundee, Angus, Perth and Kinross, and Fife. As you know, that is the soft fruit area of Scotland, where a lot of labour is required. Given what we knew from other studies that had been done just before ours, on the conditions in agriculture, that was a reason to think about focusing one element of the study there. There were similar reasons for focusing on, say, south Lincolnshire, where Gary managed the project. We were looking at those industries.
It is important to say that we did not look just at farms. Some of the most powerful testimony came from workers who were working not on farms but in other elements of food processing. If you think about what elements of the food industry are found within that broad study area, there is actually quite a lot, as you move away from farms into processing, retail supply chains, and restaurants and catering. There are quite a lot of businesses there. It is not immediately apparent, but if you try to develop some sort of sampling frame, you start to realise that it is quite a big landscape.
Nancy Kelley: To be very direct, the same kinds of problems accessing respondents that the gentlemen to my right are reporting occurred across all of our studies. The likelihood of somebody who is currently experiencing forced labour feeling safe enough to give evidence to a public Committee is very slim. Perhaps people who have escaped situations of forced labour would. We focused on the agricultural sector because it is one of the sectors where we know that forced labour occurs. We could equally have commissioned research into forced labour in the construction industry or the care industry. If the Committee were minded to think about forced labour and the situation in Scotland, it might wish to consider the range of industries in which you have factors such as large numbers of vulnerable migrant workers and high levels of agency working.
Q237 Iain McKenzie: I presume that the witnesses you interviewed came from different areas of Europe. Was there a common theme running through their aspirations and expectations when coming to the UK for work? Were those the same, or did they vary from "I expected it to be the same as, or a bit better than, my own country," to "The streets are paved with gold"? Was there that sort of variation?
Professor Craig: As you will recall, in 2004, when 10 new countries-eight of them in east and central Europe-acceded to the European Union, Britain, along with Ireland and Sweden, imposed the least strict conditions on entry. I have seen various estimates, but I remember the figure of about 60,000 being bandied around at the time as the sort of number that the Government were expecting. We now know that, since 2004, there have been something like a million. Far and away the largest number came from Poland and, to some degree, the other Baltic states, but there is a very wide sweep. There have perhaps not been as many as people expected from Romania and Bulgaria, in the second round of accessions in 2007.
In their testimony to us, people talked about some of their motives for coming. It is certainly not a homogeneous picture, and people obviously change their minds. A lot of people came for what they thought would be a short time. They thought that, because there was such a differential in wage rates, they could come, make money and go back. In another study, for example, we interviewed a general practitioner from Poland who was picking strawberries near Selby. I am sure he could have been better employed as a general practitioner in Poland, but he was making more money picking strawberries in Selby for a couple of months than he was being a general practitioner in Poland. So there is that kind of motivation.
There is a bacon factory near where I live in York that used to cater for the barbecue season. It is July or August-ha, ha-so people are outside cooking their spare ribs and chops. A load of people came over on cheap flights from Cracow and places like that to Leeds-Bradford to work in the factory for a couple of months. The conditions there were appalling, but they put up with it, because they could make a lot of money quickly. However, over the time-we are talking now about an eight-year period-people began to change their views. Obviously, some people find their experience appalling and go. Some find their experience appalling and can’t go. Some think, "Maybe it’s worth staying"; perhaps they better themselves, bring their family over or partner with somebody in this country, and stay.
It was quite interesting to talk to the citizens advice bureaux in south Lincolnshire. They said that, in 2004-05, they were dealing with a lot of inquiries from migrant workers about labour market and employment issues. A couple of years ago, they were beginning to talk about housing and family benefits-where people could send their children to school, and what choice they had. There was clearly a shifting position. Within any migrant worker population-in south Lincolnshire, which has one of the two highest concentrations in the whole of the UK, we are talking about tens of thousands-there will be a range of motives. Those motives may change over time. Certainly, people came to better themselves-why wouldn’t you? If somebody offered you the opportunity to go and work in America for six months and make a lot of money, you would do it.
Q238 Iain McKenzie: Did you interview anyone who had experiences elsewhere? I am thinking about the time-probably two years ago-when a number of migrants moved not towards us but towards the holiday markets of the Mediterranean, to work in hotels etc. I noticed an awful number of Romanians had moved in that direction. I am not sure whether or not it was easier for them to travel that way, but they had moved into positions that were below their skill levels. Was there any comparison between the experience there and the experience of those moving in our direction?
Dr Geddes: The community interviewers collected information on prior jobs and the locations of those. The most common tendency was to have worked elsewhere in the UK, so we did not really explore that too much; it was not a major thing. Clearly, there was an element of movement that was important for the workers we have been speaking to. I imagine that some workers had been in other countries, too, with the opportunities that were available.
I will offer a few other observations from the Scottish element of the study. The first relates to what we heard from citizens advice bureaux in Scotland. I spoke to the one in Perth and, for the scoping report, we spoke to the national office in Edinburgh. They reported the same sort of shift in inquiries that Gary has spoken about. The second issue is where workers are coming from.
Q239 Chair: I have had waves of migrants into my constituency, and I can understand that pattern, but surely you still have a large group of people who are at the bottom and are experiencing the same set of problems as the first group who came. Unless I am mistaken, it is not as if the first lot have all been solved, and now they have moved on to other things, it is just that more people are coming in and those who have been successful have moved on to other problems, to do with housing, children and stuff. The other problems are still there.
Dr Geddes: Yes. That sort of clarification is very important. The other thing to say about these services is that, generally, they are not short of inquiries. There is a high volume. They would all admit that, generally, they are struggling at a local level, to deal with the level of inquiries that they have. That is certainly true.
It is important not to homogenise where these people are coming from. Okay, there is a diverse set of countries, but even within the countries, we are finding that those who came first were probably some of the more go-ahead people, perhaps from the cities, and that those from rural areas followed later. Each group looks at the others rather differently. I guess it is the same as in this country, where those who are considered to live in rural areas are perhaps less willing to take a risk than those who are in larger metropolitan areas. That is important, too.
My next point concerns the profile of the workers we spoke to. If you think of the profile of migrant workers in general, you may think that they tend to be young, more male than female, and aged 18 to 25. A lot of the people we spoke to who were having problems did not always fit that profile. They were perhaps older than that and had some dependants either here or back home, which was one of the reasons that they ended up sticking it in some situations and not being as mobile as others. There was a sense that they had to cope on behalf of someone else. That was an important dimension.
The mix of workers in different places is different. It is very hard to get a picture of that, because the best data that we have had until the 2011 census has been the worker registration scheme, which tells you only about registrations. That is the best proxy we have had for where in the country migrant workers have been at particular points in time. You can get that down to local authority level.
Nancy Kelley: I wonder whether I can add something about the differentiation between EU migrants and people who are illegally resident in the UK. I know that that second group formed a minority of the people who contributed to this research, but there is a real distinction in terms of levels of vulnerability, particularly in both this research and a piece of work that we did that was focused on Chinese migrants who were illegally resident in the UK. First, they are much more vulnerable and much less likely to come forward. Secondly, in answer to the question about people’s hopes and aspirations, the difference for that group, in particular, is that they have often paid facilitators extraordinarily large amounts of money to come to the UK. That debt is being paid off by their family, so they have, if you like, an honour debt to their family in China of maybe £20,000-an impossible amount of money that is going to keep them here no matter what, earning and sending home. It is another example of the distinction Alistair is drawing between rural, more vulnerable, and urban, perhaps more sophisticated, migrants, as the Chinese migrants who are coming in to the UK now are generally from Fujian province and other rural provinces. They are from places where they have very low standards of living-desperately low even by the standards of low-income people in China, so conditions here look so much better. They are often being exploited within Cantonese-owned businesses, which is one of the more problematic hidden ends of the field.
Q240 Chair: I appreciate that that is an issue, but it is not an issue in Scotland to the same extent. In my focus, I have been looking at the Scottish dimensions of this. As I understand it, the study did not cover restaurants in Scotland. Is that correct?
Dr Geddes: Yes. We had a go at the minority ethnic catering sector, which is primarily Asian restaurants-Indian and Chinese-but it proved impossible to access interviews there within the time frame that we had. We therefore stuck with the three community interviewers we had, who were two Poles and a Bulgarian. We really focused on their knowledge of those two groups and also wider EU Accession countries.
Q241 Lindsay Roy: Thank you very much for that scene setting and contextual background; it has been very helpful. Obviously, this is a very challenging and sensitive area. Have you any idea of the scale of the problem? One incident is one too many, but you have done case studies on 62 people. Can you extrapolate from those in any way the extent of the discrimination and victimisation that is occurring?
Professor Craig: I can give you a couple of answers, neither of which will be entirely satisfactory. First, the 62 we ended up interviewing were those we considered were in or near forced labour. It sounds rather disrespectful to say this, but we discarded people: in a number of cases we got halfway through an interview before deciding that they were not in quite that situation. There was a wider pool.
If I may, I will take you back to the debate about trafficking for sexual purposes. When Harriet Harman was Minister for Women and Equality, she relied very heavily on an early piece of research by the university of North London. When someone asked the question about numbers, she stood up in the House and said, "We think there are somewhere between 1,470 and 147 women trafficked for prostitution into this country." It is obviously a slightly silly kind of estimate to come up with, but they were just saying that that was the range. Now, 10 to 12 years later, we know-I could explain how we know-that the scale of the problem is that probably 10,000 to 20,000 women in this country have been trafficked for sexual purposes and are operating in small brothels in every street. I think the debate about forced labour is probably about where the debate about trafficking for sexual purposes was eight years ago.
Q242 Lindsay Roy: So we are just touching the tip of an iceberg?
Professor Craig: First, we are saying that forced labour is clearly a very serious problem. Secondly, we think it is very much larger than we are able to defend as a number at the present time, but in a few years’ time-hopefully, less than eight years’ time-I think we will get an idea of the scale. The three of us could each give you a kind of estimate, but it would be an estimate that suggests that it is a serious enough problem. Clearly, there are mechanisms that are taking it seriously. The Ministry of Justice in this country has estimated how many prosecutions it might pursue every year, and so on, and there is legislation in place making it a criminal act.
Q243 Lindsay Roy: But it would be an informed estimate.
Professor Craig: We have not quite got there yet, but in our report in the autumn we will do the best we can with the data that we have available. I am sorry to be slightly tantalising, but I am anxious not to make a statement about numbers that then becomes a kind of gospel or holy grail. I spoke about trafficking because there was a very unpromising early start. I will tell you one of the reasons why the estimate for trafficking came about. The police instigated a couple of broad sweep exercises called Pentameter. One chief constable went into a large market town in a small rural authority and told the chief constable covering that area, "We are here to look for indications of trafficking for sexual purposes." The host chief constable said, "You won’t have a problem. We know that there is only one brothel in this area." The Pentameter sweep found 58 brothels in that area. If you assume that they are all small brothels with, let us say, three women, the vast majority of whom have been trafficked for sexual purposes-the data are available from the Met in London and so forth-and factor that up, you get into numbers that are around 10,000 or more. In Scotland, that would turn into an estimate of 1,500 to 2,000 women trafficked for sexual purposes. In her recent study of trafficking in Scotland, Baroness Kennedy took the numbers very seriously.
Q244 Lindsay Roy: What percentage of those whom you initially contacted were not followed up? How many out of that sample of 62 did you interview in the Dundee-Fife-Perth area?
Dr Geddes: It was roughly a third of the 62; we tried to divide it up evenly. On top of that, there was probably about another 10% of people we spoke to initially. You have to remember that, when you are trying to advertise or recruit people for a study, you cannot just say, "Have you been in a forced labour situation?" It is a legalistic, academic concept that needs a bit more colour, so you need to do a little bit of exploratory work first. You will find some people who think they have a grievance with their employer for some reasons but, later on, once you sift through things, you realise that actually their situation is less extreme or less poor, if you like, than what other people are experiencing, and that there might be a different way of trying to sort out a problem like that. This is why we trained our interviewers, so that they could try to do a bit of sifting. We were in close contact with one another and them all the time about how they selected people.
Q245 Lindsay Roy: Can you detail the methodology that was used to interview the migrants?
Professor Craig: To take an example of the recruiting, in places like Boston, where there is now a long history of migrant workers, and in Selby, where there are actually shops that are run by co-nationals-a Polish delicatessen, a Polish grocery, a Polish café and so on, run by Polish people-you can put a notice in the window saying, "Has your employer taken your passport and refused to give it back?", and one or two other questions like that. It would be in Polish or in Latvian; we had it translated into six or seven languages. Often people would come through local brokers-they might be a local outreach housing group or a citizens advice bureau-and be passed on to the community researcher. You can see that there is a bit of atrophy, anyway, because there is a bit of a chain before they finally reach you.
Q246 Lindsay Roy: Thereafter, were they interviewed in a social context, within a community centre?
Professor Craig: They were interviewed in a context in which they felt comfortable. Sometimes we had only a mobile phone number for people. Often, these people were living in the most isolated situations. They might be living in shacks or caravans attached to farms, which might have a bus only three times a day. It was up to the community interviewer to determine with the respondent when and where they would interview them. That is why we took the issue of safety quite seriously. The last thing we wanted to do was to send a young woman-and they were nearly all young women-into a situation, in the dark, in a place she might not be familiar with, to meet someone she had never met before, particularly where we knew violence and criminality were part of the going business.
Q247 Lindsay Roy: In your sample of 62, what were the most common themes that came through in terms of exploitation?
Dr Geddes: In the end, we identified 14 practices of exploitation. We tried crudely to quantify which were found most frequently and which were found less frequently. A lot of people had problems with issues around the way in which wages were paid. It could be withholding of, or deductions from, wages. A lot of people came forward and said, "We have had stuff taken off," or "Our wage rate has been varied, and we don’t know why."
Q248 Lindsay Roy: You are paying for accommodation.
Dr Geddes: Paying for accommodation, paying for transport-things like that-at levels that had not been agreed beforehand. That often left people with next to nothing-very little.
Q249 Lindsay Roy: Was there berry picking at below the national minimum wage, paid by results?
Professor Craig: Very much so.
Dr Geddes: Yes. One of the most complex areas is probably the relationship between the national minimum wage and the piece rates that are applied in particular standardised forms of manual labour. The notion is that they should always meet the national minimum wage, but clearly people did not feel that that was always happening.
Q250 Chair: Can you run that past me again? You said that people did not always feel that that was happening. They were either getting the national minimum wage or they were not.
Dr Geddes: If, let us say, you are picking, it is contingent on your managing to pick a number of punnets or crates-whatever it is-within a day. The assumption was that you met that target, so another thing was targets.
Q251 Chair: Are you saying that a number of these people were not being paid the national minimum wage?
Dr Geddes: That seems to be what is happening. You are set a target. If you achieve that target by the end of the day, you will have met the equivalent of national minimum wage per hour.
Q252 Chair: I am not all that familiar with the national minimum wage legislation, but surely there must be something in there that deals with this. There must something in the national minimum wage structure that says that, if somebody is on piece work, it is expected that it will set at a level that would normally allow them to get the national minimum wage.
Professor Craig: Chair, if I dropped you in the middle of Lithuania and put you to work picking strawberries, and if somebody came up with a wage slip at the end of the day or, indeed, gave you a contract of employment at the beginning that you did not understand, could not read and felt-
Q253 Chair: I understand all that, but next week we are going to meet the National Farmers Union Scotland and the Scottish Food and Drink Federation. We will raise some of these issues with them. That is why I want to be clear about what you are saying to us about the national minimum wage. Are you saying that some of these people are not being paid the national minimum wage?
Nancy Kelley: Yes.
Professor Craig: Yes.
Dr Geddes: Yes.
Q254 Chair: That has the merit of clarity. We want to be able to say to them that that is the evidence that we had from you.
Dr Geddes: But for us to work that out, we had to take account of the piece rates they were working at.
Q255 Chair: I understand that. It seems to me that the question of deductions is a different issue. What they are getting in terms of payment and the national minimum wage is the issue that we will want to pursue; the other things are separate.
You said that you had 62 interviews; if you divide them up roughly, that is 21 in each area. You said that you had an extra 10% that you did not use, which is another three or so-25, say. Suppose that the NFU says that all you have is 25 malcontents, that they are not typical and that you managed to find the worst possible cases. If you went to my constituency and searched around, you might manage to find somebody who had a harsh word to say about me. I know that is difficult to believe, but if you searched long enough, you might find a malcontent. How do we know that the people you have identified are typical as distinct from atypical? How do we know that the circumstances they were in were being experienced by another 50 or 100, and that, therefore, they were genuinely the tip of the iceberg? To what extent are these people the iceberg-or icebergette?
Dr Geddes: It is a good question. The first thing to say is that getting 62 translated and transcribed interviews from people in the situations we are interested in takes a long time. I think we asked a lot of the people we employed as interviewers. One hour of verbatim transcript of conversation takes a long time not only to put down on paper but also to translate from your own language to English, which is what the interviewers did.
Q256 Chair: I do not care about that-that is your problem.
Dr Geddes: What I am saying is that this is quite a big piece of work. The point is that, when we interview 62 people in different situations, what emerges is common types of practices across those different people. We are recognising from the individual circumstances a number of commonalities. I think that is the powerful thing about this report.
Q257 Chair: All right. There is a commonality between these 62-or 25, say, in Scotland-but how do we know that that applies to another 2,500?
Nancy Kelley: I wonder whether I might help you.
Chair: You can tell me. We are going to have to raise this with people we see next week.
Nancy Kelley: There are two things to say. First, this is not a very well-researched area, but the findings from this study are consistent with a number of other studies in the agricultural sector, anecdotal evidence and wider evidence around the prevalence of forced labour and the nature of the practices in this sector. It is not just this report-there are a number of research reports that speak to this issue. Secondly, this is not about bad apples, if you like-it is about the way that the food and agriculture industry is structured now. It is not simply one or two extremely nasty farmers, as it were; it is about the fact that increasingly farmers are using agency labour-gangmastered labour-and do not necessarily have full view of the conditions those people have been recruited under. They may not necessarily know that they have paid a facilitation fee or what deductions are being made for accommodation. If you look at the agriculture business, you have big purchasers putting downward pressure on to the farmers, and the farmers contracting out for their labour via gangmasters. People all along the chain are in ignorance of various pieces of the picture at different points of the chain. These practices came up across a number of industries in Scotland. The same sorts of practices have come up across a number of industries not only in the UK but across the EU. They are related to the shape of those industries and to the prevalence of insecure, seasonal, migrant labour.
Q258 Lindsay Roy: The key question we will be faced with is: how robust is this, and can you name names? Who is putting pressure on whom, including companies?
Professor Craig: It is certainly robust. I am sure the NFU will not want a lecture on social research methodology, but in a researcher’s mind there would be two ways of approaching this problem. One would be to get the whole population of people experiencing forced labour into a room, to do, let us say, a 10% sample and to see what came up. With even the most generous resources that Rowntree has available to it, that is clearly not open to us, because these people are not going to be herded into a room. The other way of doing it is the qualitative approach: if you are satisfied after a certain period of time and have built up a sufficiently robust sample, 60 is regarded as perfectly adequate. The first research report that the Department for Work and Pensions ever produced was called "Thirty Families", so if it is good enough for them, it is good enough for us. If we had found 30 saying, "This is happening all the time," and 30 saying, "No, it’s not," there might some questions about whether we should do another 30. However, if, as Alistair said, you get to the point with 60 where the messages you get have a very common core-it is called saturation sampling-and the broad picture is consistent, that is regarded as perfectly robust.
Q259 Lindsay Roy: I accept that. From the evidence you have given us, what we are looking at is structured and systematic. Pressures are being put on various suppliers-can we name names?
Nancy Kelley: It is an interesting question. The big supermarkets are all actively engaged in trying to get rid of forced labour in their own supply chains and have worked closely with JRF around issues such as strengthening the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. In that part of the food industry-from the big players, if you like-there is no argument about the fact that forced labour practices exist and that it is important for them to eliminate those practices from their supply chains. We have worked quite closely with all of the major supermarkets on that. How you best do that is the challenge, but food and agriculture is one of the sectors where there is an acceptance among the people working in the industry-we have also worked with the NFU-that forced labour exists in the supply chain. In other sectors, like care and hospitality, industry people might say to you, "No, this isn’t a problem."
Q260 Lindsay Roy: Right now it is soft, soft fruit, because of the not sun-drenched, but drenched, strawberry plants, raspberry bushes and so on.
Professor Craig: I can add to what Nancy has said. While the major supermarkets certainly talk a good talk, it is not always clear at the moment that they are walking the best walk. We now have this proposal for a grocery adjudicator, which did not come out of a situation where everyone was satisfied with the performance of the groceries. The point is that, because of the way the food industry is structured, the supermarkets are part of a broad industrial framework that creates the conditions for forced labour to happen. It is not simply a question of Morrisons, Sainsbury’s or whoever it is saying, "We are doing our best"; it is actually a systemic problem of which they are part. For example, if they say, "We want 300 dozen lettuces by 9 o’clock tomorrow," that puts downward pressure all the way through.
Chair: I know that a couple of my colleagues have to go off for a question about Remploy, because they have Remploy in their constituencies, so we will jump and take some of that just now, if we can.
Q261 Jim McGovern: Gary, earlier you said that you did not think that the Bulgarian and Romanian communities were so heavily involved. My understanding is that the report took four years. I know things move on and evolve. In trying to identify potential witnesses for this inquiry in my community in Dundee, I have approached members of the Polish community. The people I have spoken to have said that, by and large, the Polish community has moved up a level, and the people who are being exploited, particularly on farms, are Bulgarians and Romanians. You say you think that they are a minority, but that seems to be at odds with what I am being told locally.
Professor Craig: I would say a couple of things. First, by 2007, when Bulgaria and Romania acceded to the EU, it was already clear that the playing field was going to become much more level across the EU as a whole and that the restrictions that Britain, Ireland and Sweden did not put in place, compared with other countries, were going to evaporate. A Romanian deciding where to go has a much freer choice across the EU, whereas the Poles were much more directed towards a limited number of countries. Historical connections are often quite important, too. Romanians have a much stronger cultural connection with France and Italy. If I were a Romanian, I would almost certainly go to France or Italy. Romania is essentially a Latin country, and the culture is very similar.
Q262 Jim McGovern: I am trying to avoid talking about race or nationality.
Professor Craig: These are important choices that people make. If I were Romanian, I might find myself more comfortable in a country with a culture that is more familiar to me.
Q263 Jim McGovern: Do you disagree with the Polish person who said to me that the people who were being exploited most in Tayside, Fife and Angus were Bulgarian?
Professor Craig: No, I think there are local conditions-
Q264 Jim McGovern: Let me finish, please. A number of Polish people have said to me, "The Polish community is no longer the most exploited. The most exploited now are Bulgarians and Romanians." Are you saying that that is not accurate or true?
Professor Craig: No, I am saying that there may be very specific local situations. If I talk about Boston in south Lincolnshire-
Q265 Jim McGovern: Maybe Alistair could answer. He is at Dundee university.
Dr Geddes: In Perth there is a project called MEAD-the Minority Ethnic Access Development project-which is a local initiative that was set up by Perth and Kinross council, with the citizens advice bureau and a few other local players, to try to provide some sort of information service for migrant workers. When I spoke to people there, they seemed to suggest that, in more recent years, more of the people coming off farms to them with issues have been Bulgarians. That does indicate that there is some level of dynamism. I have one caution, though. When you speak to the Polish community, you may be speaking to people who are quite settled in the Dundee area, and they may not have very much to do with other Poles-say, those coming from other parts of Poland more recently. From our perspective, it is hard to know what that community’s shape looks like.
Q266 Jim McGovern: That is what I am trying to determine.
Nancy Kelley: I wonder whether I can add something that might make sense of the pattern that you are describing. Migration literature generally says that people come, they settle and their conditions improve. One of the things that is consistent across this and all of the other studies that we have done on forced labour is the importance of not having English language skills in isolating these people and making them vulnerable. Based on that, it seems to me entirely sensible to say that, as people have been here longer and, perhaps, have acquired language skills, they have become better able to move out of exploitative labour situations and follow a similar pattern to new migrants generally. They come here, are more vulnerable and have fewer language skills, but are able to progress as they stay. That would not be inconsistent with the way that migration generally works.
Q267 Jim McGovern: Obviously, I know that language must be a factor. My surname is possibly a bit of a giveaway, but my origins are in Ireland. Three generations ago, my family fled famine, poverty and so on in Ireland and came to Scotland. They were treated abysmally at that time. Language is obviously a factor, but it is not the only factor. It seems that the Irish community in Scotland has been pretty much integrated and that the Polish community is possibly becoming integrated, but it now looks like Bulgarians and Romanians are being exploited, certainly in the agricultural sector.
Professor Craig: We had a Bulgarian community interviewer. Partly because there was not enough business, as it were, for that person, he dropped out of the project. There was an interesting little insight when we did the local launch of this report in Lincolnshire. We were talking almost entirely about the experience of Polish migrant workers who came later and were still being very badly exploited. Two of the people in the room were a trade union official for the regional TUC in the east midlands and a representative of the Health and Safety Executive. Who were they? They were Polish migrants who had come in 2005 and had done very well for themselves. It is a very variable picture indeed.
Jim McGovern: If I may, I will offer a quick anecdote on that point. It concerns a constituent who came to my surgery-a Scottish guy in the construction industry who had applied for a job as a general foreman on a building site. He could tick every box in terms of health and safety and past experience-everything-until he came to the last box, which said, "Must be able to speak Polish." That was for a building site in Dundee.
Q268 Lindsay Roy: Is there any monitoring in the Fife-Dundee-Angus area at the moment of the supply chain for the fruit supply that is going to shops and supermarkets?
Dr Geddes: I think all the big players that take soft fruit would say that they have schemes of traceability in place. You know the sort of thing that you see on a box of strawberries or something like that-it is down to producers. They would say that that covers what they are doing. In addition-and probably more importantly here-we would be thinking of the work of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, which is able to look at those who are providing labour for picking the fruit.
Q269 Lindsay Roy: If you go back to the evidence that you had from individuals whom you interviewed, can you make the connection?
Dr Geddes: Make the connection between what?
Lindsay Roy: Between victimisation, exploitation and still being involved in the supply chain for a supermarket or whatever.
Dr Geddes: One case springs to mind. It was an extreme case of one producer from Perth and Kinross who was, I think, a rogue employer and quite quickly identified himself as such. He lost an employment tribunal case to two Polish workers. They were young guys who fitted the bill of not having any dependants to worry about, being quite confident and savvy, and having the persistence to look for assistance and to build a case. With the regional equality council, they took forward an employment tribunal case against this particular farmer.
Q270 Lindsay Roy: So there have been some breakthroughs?
Dr Geddes: There was one case where this guy lost at a tribunal. I do not know whether he paid the fine involved, but he was certainly ruled against. The supermarket that he had been supplying dropped him. His daughter then took over the business, because they would not deal with him, but she had problems trying to running it; I do not know whether it was because of lack of experience or whatever. I think that the business has now been taken over by someone else. At the end, in that case the retailer was aware of some problem and tried to do something about it, in the sense that the person lost the contract. You could argue about whether that is the right response. In some ways, it is, but does it address the problems?
Q271 Lindsay Roy: So there is some indication of effective sanction?
Dr Geddes: Yes, there was one particular case.
Q272 Chair: I am sorry about this, but a couple of people have had to go off to the report that is being made on Remploy. We have read the report, and you have given us the background. I do not want to go through that in enormous detail, exploring all of it, but it is worth while exploring some issues relating to remedies. When they are aware of the fact that they are being treated badly, do the workers raise this with their employer? If so, what happens? There is an issue of blacklisting and so on. We are interested in clarifying whether, if someone raises an objection to their treatment, they simply get slapped down, whether they are sacked, and whether that is then an example to the others not to raise anything. Earlier we raised with you the scale of the problem. You have said that, academically, a sample of 60 is sufficient. I must confess that I am not entirely convinced-it sounds slightly counter-intuitive-but if the NFU comes back to us on that, we may come back to you in due course. I would like to clarify what happens if people raise objections to the way in which they are being treated.
Dr Geddes: I think you just hit the nail on the head. The way in which objections are dealt with is often by slapping people down, as you said. People might say that they had a problem with whatever part of work they were doing, but often the response was, "If you don’t like it, there’s someone else who will take your place." That sort of fear of reprisal or dismissal was very prevalent across our sample-it is not a quantitative sample, but we heard it so many times that we were led to believe that it was something systemic, as Lindsay said.
Q273 Chair: Is there any evidence that, if someone raises issues and gets dismissed, they are then blacklisted with other employers, or can people go along somewhere else and just slot into another job?
Dr Geddes: I have read some of the depositions that you have received about the way in which blacklisting has been working in the construction sector. In the interviews in Scotland and, I think, the rest of the country, we did not hear anything about that sort of blacklisting going on. Of course, that is not to say that it does not happen in the industry, but it is not something that is routinely felt.
Q274 Chair: Maybe you cannot prove it from the employers’ point of view, but you would have thought that, if someone has left one job, turns up somewhere else and finds that, as soon as he tells them his name, he does not get another one, that would be some sort of evidence. You are saying to us that there are no stories of that sort of behaviour going on?
Nancy Kelley: I think it is to do with the nature of the two different industries. In the construction industry, there is a lot more skilled or, at least, semi-skilled labour, so the incentives to organise and recognise individual workers when they present to you are much stronger. We are talking about no-skill labour. The people doing it may have many skills, but it is an extremely casualised work force. It does not surprise me that that sort of blacklisting did not seem to come out in interviews of this sort.
In order to complain, people need to know that something that is being done to them is illegal. With a lot of the practices that were happening, people might feel that they were being treated very badly, but they might come from a place where being treated very badly and unfairly was normal or they might not know what their rights were. That is the first hurdle to get over with this group. Then there is this business of people having it made very clear to them that they are completely expendable and being told, "If you don’t want this job, I’ve got 20 more that want it and you’re out."
Q275 Chair: I understand that. You can understand the point that we are trying to pursue, to relate it to other issues.
Nancy Kelley: The construction industry is one of the industries where there is a very high risk of forced labour, but very little study of the prevalence of forced labour has been done. It is worth noting-this relates to the scale point-that, according to a TUC study, with about 58% of the three quarters of a million people who are registered as self-employed in the construction industry, it is a case of bogus self-employment, which is strongly associated with exploitative labour practices. In a sense, I am just reiterating. We happen to know a bit more about the agriculture industry and a bit less about some of the other industries where there are very strong indications that forced and exploitative labour is likely to be a problem.
Q276 Chair: Surely construction would divide into two different categories in terms of the bogus self-employed. One would be ethnic UK workers who are being forced into self-employment because the employer does not want people on the books. The second is labour gangs who are being brought in by gangmasters, where it is the same sort of issue. Is that fair?
Nancy Kelley: That is absolutely right.
Q277 Chair: What I would say to you about that is: prove it. If you have any evidence of something like that, give it to us, and we will be quite happy to pick it up, particularly if it relates to Scotland. We do not have a UK-wide remit, but we have been speaking to construction people and will meet various unions in due course. If you have any evidence of any of that, we will be happy to pick it up.
Nancy Kelley: The TUC has done most work on construction industry labour exploitation. If the Committee has not heard from it, I would strongly encourage you to speak to it.
Q278 Chair: We have had some stuff from the TUC, but we have not particularly picked it up. I find the term "exploitative labour" slightly confusing. It muddies the water a wee bit. I can see the bit about near-slavery, but a lot of employment is exploitative. You use it as a technical term in a way that normal people-if I can describe non-academics in those terms-do not. It is just a question of definition and misunderstandings.
Professor Craig: Can I go back briefly to your point about blacklisting? The labour market in south Lincolnshire has a very high concentration of gangmasters-about 56. The local authority is a bit bigger than Clackmannanshire, but it has a population of only 60,000. If a worker there is fearful of losing their job, to me that says something about the opportunities that they might think they would have of getting a job with one of the other 55 gangmasters in the area. I remember that, as a 22-year-old, I really hated the first job I got and walked out, because I knew I could get another job the next week somewhere else. If, in that kind of condensed, very concentrated situation, you are really fearful of losing your job, that does not say to me that you have a very good prospect of getting a job with somebody else. Intuitively, it suggests to me that there are informal networks among the gangmasters. When a guy is sacked, they may be asked where they worked before. When the person says, "I worked for so and so," you would get on the phone to them.
Q279 Chair: That is right, but the fact that someone may informally ring up somebody else is not a structured blacklist.
Professor Craig: No, it is not like the Consulting Association one that you have talked about before. In a sense, it mirrors the nature of the industry that you would operate in that sort of way. Nobody is holding a database, but you know who to talk to. If the population is only 60,000, a few phone calls are enough.
Q280 Chair: Can I turn to the points that Ms Kelley was raising? She said that many of the people interviewed thought that they had no right to complain and so on. What support is available and what support ought to be available? I think we may now want to move on to the question of recommendations. As I said, we will have the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and other people in front of us in due course. I presume that, having produced a piece of academic research, you would like something to happen as a result, rather than its being an end in itself.
Dr Geddes: Absolutely.
Chair: I think we would like some guidance from you on who ought to be doing what, and how we could assist in pursuing this. We have seen your recommendations, but could you give us an outline of what is available to these people at the moment-I suspect there is virtually nothing-and of what ought to be available to them, and from whom? What should we be recommending to the Scottish Government, local authorities, the unions in Scotland and the Government here, for example?
Nancy Kelley: I will try to do it in some reasonable order. One of the issues is that the structures that already exist do not work very well for this group of people. We would say that the Gangmasters Licensing Authority has been very effective and should be strengthened. I know that it is interested in extending to being able to issue civil penalties, because criminal prosecutions in this area are so incredibly complex and expensive. We would certainly be supportive of that. We would also be supportive of the extension of the GLA’s remit into unregulated sectors, partly in recognition of the fact that it has been effective and partly because there is some evidence that gangmasters have gone out of the agricultural sector and into other sectors, like construction, because the GLA has been doing its work well. I think the role of the GLA, which has proven to be quite effective, should be strengthened and, potentially, extended.
Chair: We had a question on the GLA. Since you have raised it, let us pursue that for a moment, rather than jumping about all over the place.
Q281 Mr Reid: We were going to ask just how effective the GLA is. Obviously, Nancy feels that it is effective. Do the other two witnesses agree?
Professor Craig: Yes. You should bear in mind that we did not have just the 60 interviews. We also had 10 or more interviews with what we call key policy actors in each of the areas: MPs, the Health and Safety Executive, the trade unions and so on. The common view-it was very widely held-was that the GLA was doing a reasonable job in an almost impossible situation. That has been made even worse by the recent round of public expenditure cuts. For example, in Boston, the local GLA inspector, who was very good, because she was on the ground and had community networks with CABx and so on, was sacked, so the intelligence on the ground has been lost entirely.
Q282 Chair: By "sacked", do you mean "made redundant"?
Professor Craig: Yes, on the basis of there being no money to pay her, because the GLA had to downsize by about a third.
Q283 Mr Reid: Has a third of its staff been lost?
Professor Craig: A third of its inspectors have gone.
Q284 Mr Reid: Do you know what that is in terms of numbers?
Professor Craig: I could not tell you, but I know that the task that it already had, in terms of the number of potential sites that it had to supervise, was almost impossible. This person made very good use of local intelligence and knowledge. She is gone. If you have the GLA before you, Ian Livesey, the new chief executive, will say-probably in a roundabout way-that it is doing the best that it can with very limited resources, but it could do with many more. It is generally recognised as doing a good job. As Nancy said, most people feel that its remit should be extended into other industries to stop rogue employers or agents moving from one sector to another. Its powers should also be strengthened. Interestingly-I am sure you will know this better than I do-there has been an early-day motion opposing the cuts. Two weeks ago, there was an Adjournment debate in Westminster Hall from a Conservative MP for Cambridgeshire arguing that the GLA is in some difficulties because of the resource cuts and that resources should be increased. In our area of Boston, Mark Simmonds, who was one of the MPs involved in the original establishment of the GLA, is also arguing for an increase in its powers and resources. The Minister, Jim Paice, says it should concentrate just on the worst cases. I do not quite see the political or policy point of doing that. We know there are very bad cases; what we want to do is nail the rogues, as it were, and clean them out of the industry.
Q285 Mr Reid: What extra powers would you like to see it have?
Professor Craig: Nancy has already talked about the need for civil penalties. The problem is that there are very few cases. An interesting point is why the majority of successful prosecutions so far have taken place in Scotland, rather than in the rest of the UK. I do not know whether that is because the police or the criminal justice system is more assiduous in Scotland or because of better intelligence. The best-resourced prosecution case, which took place in Northamptonshire, where the police acted absolutely impeccably, as far as one can tell, collapsed because the jury found the defendants not guilty. I think the only conclusion we can draw from that is that there is a very poor understanding among the judiciary and the public at large of what forced labour actually means. That has now sent out a really appalling message that you can invest all the time and energy you like but you may still have a poor chance, even with a fair wind from the CPS.
Q286 Chair: Why are prosecutions so difficult?
Professor Craig: I think that is part of the reason. Obviously, the CPS has this test of a reasonable chance of success. When prosecutions are brought, people may have only the poorest idea of what forced labour means. For most people, still, modern slavery does not exist in the UK-it is in a faraway place.
Q287 Chair: Are you saying to us that people can be prosecuted only for things like forced labour? I am struggling to see whether the issue is that the offences for which they can be prosecuted are so much at the harsh end of the spectrum that all sorts of undesirable things are not prosecutable. Is that what you are saying?
Nancy Kelley: There are two things. One is that the offence of forced labour in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 is at the extreme end. As you know, the burden of proof for criminal prosecutions is very high, and the complexity of the process of gathering evidence across multiple agencies for that kind of case is very difficult. That is why the idea of civil penalties, which are easier to operate and can be applied to a wider range of circumstances, is useful. Of course, there are lots of other illegal acts that are happening here. The question is, why do things like employment tribunals serve this group of people so badly? Why is HMRC not more involved when, as you rightly noted earlier, potentially very large numbers of people are not getting the national minimum wage and so on? There is a range of agencies that are not using the powers they have to intervene in these situations of criminality, using existing civil and criminal offences outwith the forced labour offences.
There are really two major points that come up, partly from this study and partly from the other studies. One is that there is a real lack of awareness across those agencies that this sort of extreme exploitation happens. If you are the Health and Safety Executive or HMRC, you are not necessarily looking for that; when you see the criminal behaviour, you do not look further to see whether there is anything else associated with that. There is a huge need for more awareness raising and training in all of the regulatory bodies that are coming into contact with these sorts of industries, and for police and other agencies, like unions or advice agencies, that are likely to come into contact with these sorts of situation. That is part of the picture.
The other issue goes to the heart of what makes the GLA relatively more effective: the fact that it has an intelligence-led rather than a complaints-led system. Fundamentally, with workers this vulnerable and isolated-often physically, but definitely socially-relying on a system that involves their making a complaint, whether it is an employment tribunal or anything else, is always going to be quite weak. The GLA uses intelligence as a way of identifying employers where forced labour is a practice and proactively investigates. That is the preferential approach. You heard and we spoke quite a lot at the beginning of the session about how incredibly difficult it is to talk directly to people who are being exploited. That is absolutely no different for a regulatory body. The two factors are really critical. There is the awareness raising, training and collaboration across the agencies that are in contact with these people, but there is also the associated issue that this is the sort of hidden practice for which an intelligence-led approach is always going to be more effective.
Q288 Mr Reid: Can you tell us in what circumstances you think civil penalties would be appropriate?
Nancy Kelley: We would not comment on the detail of the civil penalties that would be available to the GLA.
Q289 Mr Reid: You felt that criminal prosecutions were only for the extreme end and that there were other circumstances where civil penalties were appropriate. I am just trying to find out about that.
Nancy Kelley: Some of the practices that would be immediately apparent around, say, underpayment, inappropriate docking of wages, inappropriate use of tied accommodation, charging of facilitation fees that are extortionate and so on-
Q290 Mr Reid: Are they already offences?
Nancy Kelley: Yes, but any given one of those things, on its own, does not constitute forced labour.
Q291 Mr Reid: Can civil penalties already be imposed?
Nancy Kelley: For some of them, but not by the GLA. When the GLA goes into an organisation and finds those sorts of thing happening, it would be helpful if it were better able to say, "There is labour exploitation happening here that meets these sorts of level and displays these sorts of characteristic. It doesn’t merit a criminal prosecution for forced labour, but none the less we are in a position to impose a penalty in relation to those practices."
Q292 Chair: Why should it be able to impose penalties for particular things if they are not specifically GLA responsibilities? If there is somebody else-another organisation or structure-that has the responsibility to apply civil penalties for these sorts of thing, should there not be a referral system?
Dr Geddes: That is right, in the sense that one thing that has worked to some extent has been the ability of the GLA-reflected in the degree of prosecution in Scotland-to draw on information from other sources. Generally, we would look to encourage that level of information sharing. When you have a law that is designed to make extreme things a criminal offence, that is fine, but it takes a long time to build that evidence. Meanwhile, things are still going on. We are saying that we need a more flexible system.
Q293 Chair: I understand that and am not unsympathetic to it. However, if you are saying that there should be civil penalties for certain things, I think you have to tell us-if you cannot think of it today, perhaps you will write to us about it-what the certain things that should attract civil penalties should be, rather than just leaving it to us to work that out ourselves. We will then have to go off with a set of recommendations to somebody else and say, "Based on its experience, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said such and such." We will also have to look at whether the things that you are suggesting they should have responsibility for are already somebody else’s responsibility, in which case it will be a question of why these other people are not carrying out their duties. If you are talking about creating new offences, we would like to have that spelled out. Again, it comes back to the question of language. The terms that you use, such as "exploitative labour relationships", encompass a whole number of issues; that is academic-speak, as it were. Normal people-speak does not quite cover the same sorts of issue. We would want to have down in normal language what sort of things action should be taken on. I find it difficult to believe that the withholding of wages for various things is not an offence somewhere.
Nancy Kelley: It is.
Q294 Chair: Right. If it is an offence somewhere, presumably somebody has responsibility for implementing-taking action on these sorts of thing. It is difficult to see how we could get away with arguing that the GLA should have the powers to do something about that when it is already somebody else’s remit, if you understand the point.
Professor Craig: I have a couple of observations. One is that the crime of forced labour involves a combination of practices: you have to establish that more than one thing is happening. If you say that each of those should be the responsibility of a different agency, you get into a potentially very muddled, complex, bureaucratic situation. Let us say that it is simply one of the practices. Take the fact many workers appear from their wage slips to have had tax and national insurance deducted, but these are not then forwarded to HMRC. That is obviously illegal and should be dealt with by HMRC. If it is a free-standing offence, HMRC should be able to deal with it. If that is associated with, let us say, assault, where criminal proceedings could take place, or something else-the condition of the accommodation, illegal deductions for accommodation and so on-it becomes very complicated. The other point, obviously, is that the good thing about the GLA is that it focuses on gangmasters. That means that it can bring a very clear focus to bear on a sector of the industry where we know super-exploitation, or whatever it is, takes place. The issue is the fact that there is a combination of practices, on the one hand, that can be brought together under one criminal offence, and a number of separate ones. There may well be many situations where it is appropriate for HMRC to get hold of a gangmaster and say, "Right, we’re doing you." It often does that. That would still leave situations where HMRC, on its own, would not have the powers to deal with a range of other practices.
Q295 Chair: Absolutely; I am obviously getting excited now. However, there is something that I am genuinely unclear about. Taking your example of tax and national insurance not being passed on-a scenario in Glasgow with which I am quite familiar, given Rangers football club-I do not see why that should not be passed to HMRC to deal with, because it is an offence. If you are saying to us that HMRC is not taking this seriously, we will pick that up in our recommendations. It seems to me that there is already a road for dealing with that offence. I am not sure about the value added by making it part of a bigger umbrella offence that is more complicated and more difficult to resolve.
Nancy Kelley: I guess there are two responses to that. The first is to reiterate some of what I was saying before. The range of agencies, including HMRC, that might see some of these offences is not particularly aware of forced labour or extreme exploitation as an issue, so those agencies do not see the surrounding offences, if you like, or refer them anywhere else. You have a very real risk-we have precedents for this around immigration offences-that the employer gets caught and slapped on the wrist, if you are lucky, for not passing on NI, but none of the wider exploitation is picked up and dealt with. The analogous situation-
Q296 Chair: I see. Maybe I am expressing myself badly. If the Gangmasters Licensing Authority goes after somebody, gets them for several different things and farms those out, it should follow all the things through. HMRC would have to deal with one thing, but it would not have responsibility for following through on the others. Maybe we will say that there are existing powers but they are not being adequately focused and directed, and that there is a lack of co-operation and so on. In terms of what is achievable, if we start calling for legislative change, we are unlikely to be successful in the short term. If we say that organisations that already exist are operating too much in silos and should be co-operating, we have a much greater chance of having something happen more quickly. That is really what I am looking for from you.
Nancy Kelley: Your second proposition-that the organisations that are already involved and should be taking action are not aware enough, not informed enough and not acting in as co-ordinated a way as they could-is certainly true. There is definitely a lot of improvement that can be made to the existing system. Whether it is possible to be that co-ordinated is a bit of a moot point. That is perhaps where we would start to say, "The GLA understands and can deal with this issue in the round, and is more likely to pick things up and deal with them effectively." I also think that there is something to be said for considering the relative importance of how it feels. We started with you-quite rightly-challenging us for having a dry and research-driven way of talking about this. That is entirely fair. If you use only the individual offences, you are not engaging with the deep and profound psychological harm that is being done to those people. That is what the forced labour offence does, but it is too high a boundary to meet.
Q297 Chair: Write to us and tell us what you have in mind, because I am not entirely clear at the moment.1
Nancy Kelley: I am happy to do that.
Q298 Mr Reid: I want to follow up on something. You said that the situation regarding criminal prosecutions was different in England and Scotland. Can you expand on that?
Professor Craig: No, I said that, pro rata, there seems to be a much higher rate of successful prosecutions in Scotland than there is in England.
Dr Geddes: That is right. There have been 33 prosecutions so far under the GLA’s powers, and 20 of those have been in Scotland.
Q299 Mr Reid: Is that because there are more offences in Scotland?
Dr Geddes: No, I do not think so.
Q300 Mr Reid: Do the procurators fiscal in Scotland take it more seriously than the Crown Prosecution Service?
Dr Geddes: I put the same question to the GLA regional officer in charge of Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland-who works with a handful of staff over that large area, by the way. He could not give us a clear answer as to why there should be that difference, but I do not think you attribute it to Scotland being different in terms of the extent of the problem. It is probably due more to another difference. For one thing, he as an individual has tried to make sure that the powers available to him are used fully, using the linkages that he has, which are different in Scotland. He alluded to the fact that he felt that he was able, possibly, to develop an approach working with other agencies in an easier way than might exist in parts of England. I think he was alluding to the fact that there is a simpler structure, compared with a more complex structure in England.
Q301 Mr Reid: By different agencies, do you mean the Crown Office rather than the CPS, or are there other agencies that are different?
Dr Geddes: I think he was referring to the Procurator Fiscal Service. Obviously, he had somehow managed to convince it to take seriously the situations that he was often bringing to it.
Professor Craig: This is a bit speculative, but there is an insight here from the area of trafficking for sexual purposes. It may be that police forces in Scotland are better trained. There was a time five or six years ago when police forces-certainly in England-had very little training in how to identify the victims of trafficking for sexual purposes. That issue was forced on them by the UK Human Trafficking Centre, which makes a difference. That is why they did the two Pentameter exercises and, within their limits, were reasonably successful.
If I may backtrack slightly, another insight from the trafficking area is that, if you have an organisation like the GLA that has all the understanding of forced labour at its fingertips, it can be very creative in the way it works with other agencies, as long as the other agencies know what they are looking out for and can work creatively with it. A range of tactics might be available. The GLA does not need to go down the forced labour route if there are others available to it. In the trafficking area, the UKHTC nobbled a number of people. Basically, it went to the HMRC and said, "We know these people are trafficking women into the country, but the burden of proof is too great. Do the Al Capone number on them-take them for tax avoidance." That is how a number of human traffickers ended up in jail for considerable periods of time. They were able to get them for tax avoidance, using the HMRC’s powers.
Q302 Chair: I think this confirms a number of our prejudices, which is always helpful. Departments are working in silos, but Scotland is a small enough area for people to know one another and to be able to break down some of these barriers. Maybe if England had regionalisation, you would have the same sort of measures, because currently they are dealing with one another only at the top, as it were. When we finish this, I will say that you should write to us if, on reflection, you think of anything that you wish you had thought of at the time. If you have any reflections on this area, it would be very helpful for you to let us have those. We are seeing the GLA next week, so normal academic timelines would not apply; we would have to have something fairly soon, if we wanted to pick it up with the GLA. I come back to the question of people we ought to raise things with and what you wanted to recommend. I think the GLA was your first one. We have to be somewhere by 9 o’clock, which gives you an idea that we are not pressing you to get through them all quickly. We would rather have it thorough than quick.
Nancy Kelley: The Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate is one of the agencies that has a kind of reporting mechanism and, therefore, does not do a good job in this area. It is really important to look at how that could work better to protect these people.
Q303 Chair: Is it not doing that now, in Scotland in particular? If not, why not? Is there a structural reason why it is not doing it?
Nancy Kelley: I could not speak to Scotland but, across the UK, the big issue is that it is not intelligence led, so it is not reaching into a workplace in the way that the GLA does at the minute. I think there is scope for much closer collaboration and sharing of working between the two.
Q304 Chair: Why don’t they?
Nancy Kelley: I could not possibly answer that; I have no idea.
Dr Geddes: I do not have a clear view on that difference, other than my impression that, as I said, what the GLA has done in Scotland has been largely the result of having an individual in a particularly important place who, for a start, has come from a background connected to police forces there-his ability to use some of his existing relations may be another factor-and who has had a greater level of enthusiasm to drive forward his team to do things in a way that is not reflective of the situation in other agencies.
Q305 Chair: The particular organisation that was referred to by Ms Kelley-
Dr Geddes: EASI.
Chair: Has he been dealing with that, too? The efficiencies that were identified just now do not apply in Scotland-or do they?
Dr Geddes: I think there are similar sorts of gaps there. They may not be identical to the ones in England; possibly, he has made a little bit more headway there. I think it would be interesting to find out how he has managed to do that.
Q306 Chair: We will ask about that.
Dr Geddes: I think that would be very useful.
Q307 Chair: And the next.
Nancy Kelley: I think that the way in which trade unions at national level have worked has been really effective, but getting more understanding of how they can link in at a local level, particularly via community organisations, would be really important, because that would help these workers to be able to access information about their rights and entitlements. However, it will need trade union reps with languages to work mostly with and through community organisations. It is really important to have a conversation with the unions about how they are working locally.
There is a really important conversation to have with purchasers in different supply chains, including agriculture, about how they can do better. A lot of good work has been done around ethical audit, but more can be done. In particular, there is some interesting potential around auditing terms and conditions-auditing agencies before you agree to have them in your supply chain, effectively, to make sure that any given agency, supplier or gangmaster is operating to an appropriate standard and is offering appropriate terms and conditions.
Q308 Chair: Are you finished on that?
Nancy Kelley: Yes.
Q309 Chair: Right. Let me be clear about this. We are going to have the NFU and the Scottish Food and Drink Federation come along, both of which I met when Dr Geddes was speaking at Holyrood in Edinburgh, and both of which assured me that it wasn’t them-a bad boy did it and ran away. It was as if there are farms in Scotland that are operating furth of Scotland, so to speak, and have nothing to do with the National Farmers Union Scotland. It is not their members-they are rigorous, and all the rest of it. How should the National Farmers Union be dealing with what could be rogue farmers? How can it reasonably be expected to know what is going on? I have some sympathy with it; presumably, it will not know what is going on at every individual farm. If the supermarkets are not following these things down, how exactly do people know which farms are the bad employers? I was disappointed when, at the meeting in Holyrood, I asked you to name names and you declined-I was going to say refused-to do so. You have obviously had time to think about this. You can see how it would be immensely helpful to us if you were able to say, "Well, one of our interviewees said that such and such a farm was operating such and such a system of holding back wages." My colleague Lindsay Roy also raised the point about naming names. It is very difficult to pursue these things unless we have particular examples. Can you give us them now?
Dr Geddes: No, I will probably continue to decline on that one, because of the nature of the way that we did our research. We were not trying to focus on that.
Q310 Chair: Would you be willing to go back to some of the people you interviewed to ask them whether they are willing to tell us which farms or businesses were treating them so badly?
Professor Craig: To get Alistair off the hook, let me say that I think you should put that question to Ian Livesey. Nancy made the point that the GLA is intelligence led. The intelligence it gets is from its inspectors, and the inspectors get it from local community representatives. In several interviews that I did in Boston in south Lincolnshire and the area around that, often with groups of people, somebody would say, "We know such and such a farm," and there would be knowing looks around the table. Everybody knew where the worst places were. People had reported them and, in some cases, the GLA had actually taken action against them. I think the GLA does rely on that kind of intelligence to pursue cases.
Q311 Chair: That is right. However, because it is working to pursue cases, it may feel that it does not necessarily want to tell us. Since you do not do anything about the information that you gather, we are asking you to pass it on to us. I understand why you decline to do that, but we are quite clearly asking you whether you are willing to pursue this for us. Otherwise, what else can we do?
Dr Geddes: One thing that I think would be very useful to focus on in your discussion with the farmers unions, both in Scotland and in other parts of the UK, is their relationship with the GLA. It is probably the critical thing to focus on, so that you get a sense from the farmers’ perspective of how they think the GLA has been working, in the interests both of those who have nothing to hide and of policing those who should have action taken against them. That would probably be the most useful sort of thing to do.
Q312 Chair: We will do that anyway, and we will do the same thing with the Scottish Food and Drink Federation, but you are the ones in front of us just now. As far as we know, you have had dealings with people who have evidence of malpractice, and we would like to identify the people involved. If you are not willing to tell us directly, for the reasons that you have given us, we would like you to go back to them, if you can, to ask them whether they are willing to tell us which farms and enterprises were involved, in order that we can publicise that and pursue them. I cannot see why you would want to cover up for these people.
Nancy Kelley: Maybe I can answer that and then answer your question about what you would talk to the NFU about at the same time. The basic provisions of ethics in social research meant that, when Alistair spoke to people, he guaranteed them confidentiality. I think that, in all likelihood, we would have had no respondents to this research if we had said, "By the way, when we say ‘confidential’, we don’t mean that we are not going to pass on information about somebody from this farm having spoken." It is not that Alistair or any of us is attempting to be unhelpful-we just can’t.
Q313 Chair: I understand that. I was asking whether you would be willing to go back to them and say, "We haven’t broken the promise we gave you or told anybody anything. We are now asking you whether you would agree that the farms or factories you named should be identified, so that the Scottish Affairs Committee can pursue this." That seems to me not to compromise the promise you gave.
Nancy Kelley: Assuming that people were around and still in the country, which is very unlikely, it would be possible to go back, via the community intermediaries and organisations. I am just trying to be honest about the likelihood of people being prepared to take that kind of step.
Q314 Chair: If you are willing to try and can’t do it, I understand that. It is a question of not being willing to try.
Dr Geddes: I am trying to think about it from a procedural point of view-what we can and cannot do within the ethical approval system that we have to go through as researchers, through each of our institutions. There are quite specified conditions that we have to work under.
Q315 Chair: We have accepted that you will not spill the beans just now.
Dr Geddes: No.
Q316 Chair: We understand that. We are now asking whether you will go back and ask them whether they are willing to tell you, so that you can tell us.
Dr Geddes: First, there is the possibility of recontacting. As Nancy said, the number of people would be limited. Then we would have to make sure that what we were not trying to broker a piece of research. It would be brokering, but this is not a piece of research that we are doing.
Chair: That is right.
Dr Geddes: We cannot give the usual sort of guarantee, because this is not a piece of research that is being led by us. This is an inquiry that is being led by you, which is subject to a different set of conditions. We could possibly look at putting you in touch, but we would have to make sure that that satisfied the institutional agreements that we have to abide by.
Q317 Chair: We want to do something about bad people. I think you do as well, but you are in danger of appearing a bit too precious about it. If you are indicating to us that you are willing to try and help us do something about it, fine. I appreciate completely that it might not be possible. Ideally, you would have come along today with a list that we could take to The Scotsman saying, "These are the bad people." I appreciate that you are not able to do that. I come back to what we should be asking the National Farmers Union.
Nancy Kelley: For me, there is a distinction between what the NFU can do and what individual people, or big organisations in the supply chain, can do. The NFU is a kind of industry body rather than-
Q318 Chair: We will come on to the supply chain in a minute. Let us take the NFU first.
Nancy Kelley: I think the NFU has a significant role to play in raising awareness among its members that this is an issue, about the kinds of thing that they should be looking out for in terms of the gangmasters they are working with, and about the risk factors for forced labour that they should be aware of. Although it sounds peculiar to say it, I am sure there are farmers who are not aware that the people picking their crops are experiencing this kind of forced labour, because some of what is happening is about the intermediaries. Some of what is happening is about the farmers, but there is a sort of basic starting point that says, "Don’t assume that, because it is happening on a farm, the farmer is aware, knows about it and is doing it on purpose." I think the NFU has a huge role to play in terms of promoting that awareness and information, working with members to ensure that they are alert to those risks and that they are part of a whole network of people who are concerned to push forced labour out of the agricultural supply chains-the "working with good farmers" piece. Then the question is, how is the NFU working with the GLA to deal with the farmers who are knowingly, as it were, involved in forced labour? It is about getting it to focus on the way in which they are collaborating at that level. I think the two are equally important. As I said, it is important not to assume that farmers are deliberately and knowingly participating in this, just as it is wrong to assume that people buying from farmers are deliberately and knowingly participating in these practices.
Q319 Chair: In terms of your experience of Scotland, what is your impression of the position of the National Farmers Union? At Holyrood, I got the impression that the representative of the National Farmers Union was saying, "Nothing at all to do with us. None of the farmers is aware of any of this. We are operating in a condition of complete ignorance."
Dr Geddes: I guess they might say that their role is to pay the gangmaster, and the gangmaster’s role is to pay the workers. In some sense, they are distanced from this, so if there are any problems, it is something to do with the gangmaster. As long as the gangmaster is licensed, there is no problem, so it is a problem for the GLA. In a sense, they can say, "It is not our problem. It is a problem for the people we are using to provide the labour." It goes back to the issue of making sure that they understand the need for the GLA, so they can see that it is not just a sort of regulatory burden but that there has been some success from having a GLA that has used its powers in Scotland and that the potential to do more might be a good thing. I think that is something to discuss with them.
Q320 Chair: Okay. The next group was those further up the chain. Presumably, it is the Scottish Food and Drink Federation, as well as the supermarkets that are buying raw materials direct and selling them.
Nancy Kelley: I think there is much more that can be done around ethical supply chain auditing, basically. There is also much more that can be done about contracts. If the terms and conditions of labour for your labour provider are part of the contract the farmer has with the person he is selling up to, it creates a kind of contractual set of incentives for the farmer to be more interested in whether their labour provider is operating legally and properly. Indeed, it creates more of an incentive where farmers are employing directly. There is capacity to look at the contracting process and the service level agreements. It is clearly the case that downward pressure on costs contributes to this situation. I think that a conversation with larger-scale providers about the added value of not having a focus purely on cost when they are contracting-looking at wider productivity and quality issues and at the corporate social responsibility angle of wanting to eliminate forced labour from the supply chain-is also a really important part of this picture. Increasingly, the big supermarkets see this as a reputational problem for them, so there is leverage to have a sensible conversation in which you say, "If you have the type of business in which a huge proportion of the costs is represented by labour and you are contracting primarily on the basis of cost, you are upping the risk of forced labour happening in your supply chain." There is definitely a lot more that can happen there, although the supermarkets-in contrast with most other sectors where forced labour happens-have, of course, done much more work on this already.
Q321 Chair: If the supermarkets have done a lot of work on this, why, in a sense, is it still continuing? I would have thought that, between them, the supermarkets and the Food and Drink Federation member companies in Scotland would be buying virtually all of the product. Everybody tells me they are aware of this and are trying to do something about it, yet it is still going on. Perhaps somebody is not being fully open. Unfortunately, Hansard reporters do not record a shrug there. Can you clarify for me whether you believe that the mechanisms that are in place are sufficient, or whether it is just a case of lip service being paid to some of these fine-sounding acclamations?
Nancy Kelley: We would say that some of what has been done has been good and well intentioned and has not been lip service. However, in a sense, it comes back to where we started. You have industries that work in a particular way, prioritise costs and have very high labour costs at the point of picking, in the case of food and agriculture. If the contracting process emphasises cost and cuts margins to such a degree, that does elevate the risk of forced labour in the supply chain. I think that purchasing practices are the area where more could be done.
Q322 Chair: I understand the argument about downward pressure. Presumably, however, if they calculated the appropriate fair price, given rates and so on, that would not in itself be sufficient to ensure that either farmers or gangmasters did not exploit that higher price in order simply to make higher profit. Looking at it from the supermarkets’ end, as it were, it is not sufficient simply to alter price to reflect what would be fair.
Nancy Kelley: That is quite right. It is a very complicated, long supply chain in food and agriculture. There is a range of points of pressure. I think that it would be wrong to say that it is the responsibility purely of the big purchasers. Clearly, it is not; there are lots of people who should be accountable at each point in the chain. However, if the question is, "Can the big purchasers do more?", I think the answer is yes. One of the ways in which they could do more is to look at the basic cost structures for their contracting. If the question is, "Can the farmer do more?", I think the answer is yes. One of the ways in which the farmer can do more, where he is using gangmasters, is to take responsibility for checking the terms and conditions under which his pickers or packers are being employed-checking that the person they use is registered with the Association of Labour Providers, which is the trade association for good gangmasters. At each point in the chain, there is more that can be done. Similarly, we were talking about regulatory agencies, the police or people who come into contact with people who may be in conditions of forced labour. Unfortunately, this is not one of those silver-bullet issues. It will take all of those individual sets of people getting a little bit better, in terms of their own practices, to start to drive down the number of people experiencing forced labour in the industry.
Q323 Chair: Presumably, farmers would say that this was far too onerous for them. An individual farmer, running a farm, who may have people come in to pick potatoes or something else for a relatively short period, cannot have a structure that supervises all of these things when they do not use it all the rest of the year. Is there a model that they could adopt, or is this a role for the NFU as a whole? I am just anticipating defences that they would put forward.
Professor Craig: I would certainly want to ask the NFU how it polices its members in this regard, what the level of understanding is among its members and whether there are gaps in its membership that are more prone to being exploited. Clearly, we have situations where the Co-operative Wholesale Society may own thousands of acres of land and put managers in place. There will also be individual farmers and other conglomerates. Again, the picture is not a homogeneous one. To go back to Nancy’s point about the major supermarkets, there are clearly paradoxes and contradictions here, because the major four supermarkets in England, certainly, are engaged in a very fierce struggle for market share. The downward pressure on prices and costs is largely what is driving them. We would hope that there would also be some downward pressure in relation to terms and conditions, so those were equalised. However, I had evidence in Lincolnshire-I could point you to a trade union official who could give you chapter and verse-of how one of the major supermarkets manipulated the local situation to its own advantage and drove people out of business because they would not meet its cost requirements. Hundreds of jobs were lost in the Lincolnshire area. So there is this contradiction going on. I do not know whether you intend to hear evidence from the Ethical Trading Initiative, but the problem is that most of its work at the moment tends to focus on commodities that come from outside the UK. Increasingly, it is becoming concerned about how it applies the ethical trading codes to organisations that are producing within the UK; you might actually give it a useful kick up the backside in that direction. I know Tesco will say that it signs up to the Ethical Trading Initiative, but I do not know what that means when you get down to the field.
Q324 Chair: You say that there are examples of bad practice in Scotland. Prove it.
Dr Geddes: I was just reflecting on what I was told when speaking to one gangmaster. This may be going back two or two and a half years. They was a licensed gangmaster who had supplied workers to a variety of farms and, indeed, other businesses. One of their frustrations with the GLA was that sometimes, when not clear about what was or was not right, they would speak to the GLA and get a rather in-your-face sort of answer. At the same time, the same gangmaster knew of situations where some farmers-presumably, not members of the National Farmers Union Scotland-had initially taken some labour from them or other gangmasters, but had then decided to cut out the gangmaster and source directly from abroad themselves. That is an example of a practice that should not have gone on.
Q325 Chair: That is not necessarily bad in itself, but only if they were treating people badly.
Dr Geddes: They are not licensed labour providers. Sourcing workers without using a licensed labour provider is an example of an operation that is illegal, right?
Nancy Kelley: Just to clarify, some farmers are also licensed labour providers, but not all.
Dr Geddes: But they need to be licensed for that purpose. They were doing that because, at the end of the day, they were getting workers more cheaply?
Q326 Chair: As distinct from simply cutting out the middleman’s profit-they were actually getting them cheaper, and that was the intention.
Dr Geddes: Yes.
Q327 Chair: It is a serious point. If someone thinks that the gangmaster is raking off, say, 50%-a ridiculous limit-and decides that they can do it much more cheaply and pay people better by cutting out the middleman, that is not unreasonable.
Dr Geddes: Yes. This labour provider also said that farmers were getting offers from labour providers in other countries-who were not licensed in the UK-to supply workers to them for this cost. When they compared that with the cost that a licensed gangmaster in the UK could provide, they said, "I can reduce what I have to pay to get labour on to my farm by this much if I go with the first option." That is something that was reported. Reflecting the complexity of things, this gangmaster acknowledged that, at times, they had subcontracted to another gangmaster to provide some additional labour. They knew that that gangmaster was using a labour provider in one of the accession countries who was not licensed there, too. They should not have been doing that, but they knew-or hoped-that the penalty would fall on the subcontractor, rather than on themself. That is another example of a chain. They was spreading his risk; they knew he should not been engaging in that, but they were doing it. The overall sense that I got from speaking to that sort of gangmaster was that they knew that these sorts of practice were going on. They said that it was a very cut-throat business-those were their own words-that it was very competitive and that they were not surprised that these sorts of thing existed, as people tried to cut their costs all the time.
Q328 Chair: Can I ask you for your view of the National Farmers Union Scotland? Is it serious about trying to combat bad practice, or is it just going through the motions?
Dr Geddes: It goes back to the issue of the difference between an intelligence-led operation like the GLA and what the National Farmers Union Scotland is. It is a members’ body and is not designed to police itself in any sort of extensive way. It is a lobbying body-an interest group-so it is designed for a different sort of purpose.
Q329 Chair: But it would also claim certain responsibilities to try to maintain standards and so on, wouldn’t it?
Dr Geddes: Okay, but presumably a lot of those things are voluntary codes, or whatever they are. They are not designed in the same way as having an inspectorate. I would imagine that, among those who are members of the NFUS, there would be some grumbling about the GLA and the red tape burden but that there would be recognition of the need for it, having seen the reasons why the GLA came into existence in the first place and having heard of other, subsequent cases of problems in addition to that. I think there is some level of support-whether it is as proactive as it might be is a different matter. However, what can it actually do, apart from encouraging its members to support the GLA and designing some sorts of code and voluntary agreements?
Q330 Chair: There is collective pressure. If it was serious about pursuing the issue, it would be on its members’ backs more than if it was just going through the motions. At the moment, I am not clear about whether it is in denial or whether it is serious about dealing with these things. When we spoke to it on health and safety, it was pretty clear that it is very keen to encourage its members to adopt best practice and recognises that there are major difficulties and so on. I think it is acting in good faith there. I am not nearly as convinced that it regards this as a serious issue. I got the impression that it is perhaps just a bit too much bother, that it will come into conflict with some of its members if it starts pursuing this vigorously and that it will, therefore, just shy away from it.
Dr Geddes: I am sure one of the strong views that it would express is that it wants a system that works for farmers but does not involve a lot of their time to get the labour that they want. That is what it would want to say. It goes back to the nature of what it can do, beyond general encouragement. Of course, there is also the issue of how it knows about the level of a situation. It is not designed to know about that, other than to hope that people who know of problematic situations bring those forward to it. It is not designed to collect that information itself.
Q331 Chair: I am conscious that Professor Craig has to go off in five minutes or so.
Professor Craig: I am so sorry.
Chair: Life goes on beyond here; it may be regrettable, but apparently it is true.
Professor Craig: I am going to the Ministry of Justice next.
Chair: How can I compete? Is there anything that you want to add before you go? We will continue speaking to your colleagues, if that is acceptable.
Professor Craig: To summarise some of the debate of the last hour, our view would be that the GLA is limited in its resources and powers but is a fairly effective centre of a network of organisations. Each of them has its individual responsibilities. Most of them do not seem to know enough about the issue of forced labour, so the question of training and education is important. That would apply to the National Farmers Union. I think that when the National Farmers Union says, "It is nothing to do with us," probably what it ought honestly to be saying is, "We’re not aware that it is anything to do with us," which is a slightly different answer. I think ignorance is no excuse in the face of the law. There should be training and education among these agencies, and better networking and tactical choices about how to respond to these practices. We are calling not for huge new legislation but for much more effective use of the existing range.
I will just add-either Nancy or Alistair may elaborate on this-that there are other routes into identifying forced labour. Again, those are areas where people perhaps do not know as much as they should. I am thinking particularly of the housing end. You often find people living in the most appalling situations, as you will have read in our report, in accommodation that is owned or controlled by labour providers. Here we have, possibly, the Health and Safety Executive, although its remit is mainly employment related; the fire and rescue service, certainly, which often ends up dealing at the sharp end with house fires in situations that are illegally in multiple occupation; and, of course, the public health inspectorates within local authority housing departments. They can all come at this from another end and bring their resources to bear, if the links with the GLA and other agencies are good. We see the GLA as a specialist organisation at the centre of these networks that could do an effective job if those around it were better informed and collaborated better, and, probably, if it were better resourced.
The last point is that one of the reports that we have not talked about that the JRF produced was a think-piece on the regulatory framework. There are the beginnings of an argument in there for some rationalisation, which would still have the GLA at the centre. We are not arguing for more organisations and more bureaucracy but, possibly, for fewer, with stronger and more effective powers and resources. Thank you very much. I am terribly sorry to have to go.
Q332 Chair: Thank you very much for your time. Nancy, you are working through your list.
Nancy Kelley: I know; I can’t believe we are going through it systematically. I wonder whether I can say something about housing and the NFU, because I think there is something quite positive to be said there. I shall preface this by saying that I have not had a conversation about this with the NFUS, but I did have a conversation quite recently with the NFU here. One thing that the NFU has done, which is an example of how it can help, is promote with its members a much better understanding of what adequate housing standards look like and what adequate housing standards for seasonal agricultural labourers are. As Gary said, that is a really critical route into identifying situations that might be problematic. It is also important for a very wide range of other reasons, not least community cohesion in rural towns. The way in which these seasonal workers are housed is a really important issue, but it also gives you a sense of where there might be a risk of forced labour. I think there has been some very positive work there to build out of.
It also opens up an interesting conversation about what that issue-housing-looks like from a farming perspective. The NFU has said to me, and I believe this to be true, that repeat labour is really important to farmers, in terms of their productivity. They would prefer the same people to come back every year to pick their strawberries or whatever, so treating workers reasonably well, particularly as regards the quality of housing, is very important. There is a business case, if you like, for doing a better job of that part of the pay and conditions of your work force, but they face a number of challenges around, for instance, planning that make it very difficult for them to do anything other than provide relatively poor-quality caravans that are in multiple occupation and so on. We have committed to exploring the potential to work with the NFU to do some analysis of the barriers to farmers doing a better job of providing housing for their seasonal workers. That is an example of the way in which the NFU can work in a very positive way to start to break the link with gangmasters who are operating illegally and are using housing as a really big part of that picture. The NFU can do a lot that is positive. From my perspective, those positive routes can sometimes be identifying what farmers’ business needs are, as per housing and repeat labour, and saying, "You are interested in it for this reason. We are interested in it because it increases the quality of conditions for these workers and reduces the possibility of forced labour. What needs to happen to make it possible for your members to do a better job?"
It goes to the general point that, in any given industry, one is always trying to make it easier for the vast majority of employers, who want to do a good job, to do that good job and, therefore, to isolate, for agencies like the police and the GLA, those organisations that are being deliberately criminal. There is a lot that the NFU could do in terms of encouraging awareness, training, developing standards and supporting its members, as it does around issues like housing, that would raise the issue in a positive way and make sure that those farmers who want to do a good job know the kind of questions they need to make sure they are asking their labour providers. Where anybody else is still indulging in that kind of practice, that is a matter for enforcement and regulation.
Q333 Chair: Surely that is something that would be relatively easily evaded. Presumably, most farms would not have accommodation in situ for the entirety of the work force. Therefore, it has to be off-site. By definition, unless the farmer actually goes and supervises, it becomes a sort of tick-box mechanism. They say, "Assure me that you provide x, y, z and all the rest of it." The person says yes, but the farmer would need to see and inspect all of it. Again, they would say, "This is not something in which we are trained. Why should we have to deal with that responsibility?"
Dr Geddes: We have not discussed this, but you make a very good point. I am not sure that a lot of accommodation is always off-site; I can think of a number of cases where the accommodation is entirely on-site, somewhere on a farm. You can think of fleets of caravans on a variety of farms in the study.
Q334 Chair: I see. Do you mean that their caravans are parked there temporarily and then move on-that they are themselves transient?
Dr Geddes: No, these are things that have been purchased by the producer to house the workers, because the location of production-the farm-is so far away from the nearest town that there is really no option other than to have workers there, particularly for the length of days they sometimes work.
Q335 Chair: So we should look for caravan parks.
Dr Geddes: Not caravan parks.
Chair: Near farms.
Dr Geddes: This is likely to be the nature of labour that certain producers will have to have looking forward from here. Often they are not going to source it from local towns and will have to source it from this form of migrant labour. Until now, there have been challenges dealing with, and having accommodation for, the numbers that they have needed to be in place, which has led to some pretty poor conditions, as we highlighted in the report. However, I agree with Nancy that there is a possibility that, if we recognise that this is going to be a long-term trend in the way in which labour is acquired for these producers, we can work with the NFU to realise that there is a level of permanency and standards that you can put in place. That would be a very good thing to pursue.
Q336 Chair: Is it not the job of local authorities to police this? Are local authorities in Scotland asleep on the job here?
Dr Geddes: No. Yes, it is the job of local authorities to do something about it, and no, they are not asleep. As a result of what happened, unfortunately, in Angus back in 2005-06, when a caravan on a farm caught fire and there were fatalities from that, there has been a good awareness that accommodation is one of the issues that you can use to get at forced labour situations, working with local authorities. That may explain the difference in the level of prosecutions in Scotland. I think the GLA in Scotland has developed very good relationships, at least with Angus housing team. I presume that, having done it there, it is looking to do it in other local authorities, too.
Q337 Chair: When we were at the meeting in Edinburgh, Angus was mentioned as an example of good practice. Is it therefore the case that the housing issues do not apply in Scotland?
Dr Geddes: Yes, they apply. I was just thinking of the area that we covered, in terms of the number of workers who are required in certain areas and where they get housed. The issues apply and are a challenge for producers.
Chair: That is right.
Dr Geddes: If you have 200 or 300 staff on your farm at a particular point in time, where do they go at night-time, if they are miles away from anywhere?
Q338 Chair: You can split the housing issues into two different categories. One is to do with the standard and quality of accommodation, overcrowding and all the rest of it. The other is the question of overcharging and stuff like that. The overcharging is not the responsibility of the local authority, but the quality of the accommodation is. If local authorities are on top of this, that bunch of issues should not be a problem in Scotland.
Dr Geddes: Yes, recognising that this is a process. They need to be able, first, to know about these accommodations. How do they know about them? I guess there must be some system by which-
Q339 Chair: They can drive about.
Dr Geddes: They are not going to do that, are they?
Q340 Chair: If there are 100 caravans, it is unlikely that they will be able to hide them.
Nancy Kelley: I wonder whether I can clarify the issue. It is really important to remember that the problems around housing are not linked solely to on-site housing. Quite often, the problems around housing are linked into the very poor-quality end of the private rented sector-just the mainstream private rented sector in the nearest market town, where people are hot-bedding and so on. In some cases, the whole of the labour force is on-site, and that accommodation can be of good or bad quality. There is a set of accommodation that is on-site, but everybody else is being bussed in and out from the nearest town. They are in the low end of the private rented sector and are likely to be in very overcrowded situations, with hot-bedding and so on. It is important not to assume that the way to identify bad accommodation is to drive past the farm.
On the wider point of local authorities, housing is their responsibility and they do good work in this area. I am really heartened to hear Alistair say that they do particularly good work in Scotland. However, fundamentally, it is very difficult to regulate perfectly something that changes as quickly as this. In the conversation that I had just a couple of weeks ago with an NFU representative about housing, I asked, "If it were easier to provide more housing on your farm, do you think members would want to do it?" It was interesting that he said, "Yes. If we could provide more permanent structures and the planning were easier, it would be in our interest to do that and some members would do it." The advantages of exploring those sorts of option are that you are not pushing very large numbers of seasonal workers into the private rented sector of your nearest market town and, therefore, creating a crushed condition there, because, of course, there are already people living in the private rented sector of your nearest market town.
Q341 Chair: Has this dialogue with the National Farmers Union and gangmasters about the question of accommodation taken place in Scotland in the way that it seems to have done in England?
Dr Geddes: I know that it has taken place between the gangmasters and at least some local authorities. I presume that the NFUS has been involved; given that we had fatalities, I imagine that it will have been.
Q342 Chair: We will raise that with it directly.
Dr Geddes: I will make a few other quick comments. The idea of off-site accommodation does come up in Scotland when you have workers who are working in processing plants, which may be meat plants or fish-processing plants up in the north of Scotland. I think those situations are important. Thinking of what producers do, sometimes issues of accommodation stretch to things like cooking, cleaning, showering and bathing-those sorts of facilities. I think there have been very different ideas of what is acceptable, given a volume of people. There may be an idea that you need to have more kitchens, more shower blocks or whatever it is to cope with the volume of traffic. That is one thing. It involves making a recommendation that requires a change in infrastructure, so space has to be found. That is a process that takes time. Working out how that process is policed is the important thing that we are trying to think about.
Q343 Iain McKenzie: On off-site accommodation in the private rented sector, I imagine that they still have to apply for licences for housing in multiple occupancy. In that respect, they can be controlled and regulated.
Nancy Kelley: Yes. If they have a licence, the local authority is responsible for regulating them. You then have questions about how easy it is to regulate. It depends on the size of the sector and the size of the local authority; it might be much easier in a smaller place than in a very large one. However, a lot of the HMOs are illegal. Again, it is the responsibility of the local authority to monitor that, but it is difficult to have perfect knowledge-or even imperfect knowledge-of where to look.
Q344 Iain McKenzie: Is it again down to intelligence from others saying, "We suspect this house is being used like that."?
Nancy Kelley: Absolutely. It is to do with everybody, from the local CAB to the local policeman, to people who actually see the conditions in a particular street, having at least a bit of awareness. One would hope that they would report anyway a situation in which they felt a house was overcrowded, but they need to have enough awareness that that may be important and may mean more than just that somebody’s family is staying with them for a bit-that it may be a risk. I think that the only way you are going to get the kind of coverage you would want is for there to be a much higher level of awareness across a range of agencies, so that people are picking up the phone to the local authority and saying, "I think there is a cluster of houses in this street where there appear to be very large numbers of migrant workers living." The local authority can then pick up and use that intelligence.
Alistair’s point is really important. If we have and are likely to have a range of industries that are highly seasonal-that scale up and scale down-that are likely not to find their workers locally and that will, therefore, bring in very large numbers of people relative to the size of the nearest town or village, the question is, how do you accommodate those people well? Obviously, they cannot just squash into the existing supply, as they are doing already. It is really important that we explore this business of whether it is possible to support farmers to provide better-quality accommodation-what we can do to accommodate that kind of seasonal change.
Q345 Chair: Presumably, to some extent, the issue is whether the public purse should be supporting that, in order to have the private sector benefit, so to speak-whether the private sector has to pay for it as part of the costs of production.
Nancy Kelley: Sure. That is part of it, but things like planning regulations are also quite a big part of it. You can have really great caravan parks that are providing great-quality accommodation, but what kind of process do you go through to become a registered caravan park? What kind of volumes can you put on? What, if any, planning restrictions exist around putting roads and, in particular, permanent structures on to farming land? It seems to me that it is worth considering the way in which the surrounding planning regime makes it either easy or hard for a farmer who wants to provide good-quality accommodation to do that task. If they do not, those people are being bussed in and out of the nearest market town, and we know where they are. Whether or not they are in forced labour, we know that they are in houses in multiple occupation, typically in very poor-quality accommodation in the private rented sector. There is also that part of the picture.
Q346 Chair: What is the next one on your list?
Nancy Kelley: Wow. Where am I at? I recognise this is outwith the Committee’s remit, but I think it is important to flag up that, in this study and across all of the studies, contingent immigration status is part of the picture.
Q347 Chair: What does contingent mean in that sense?
Nancy Kelley: Restrictions on people’s immigration status.
Q348 Chair: People who are here illegally.
Nancy Kelley: People who are here legally but are tied to particular jobs and employers. We can park people who are here illegally, which is obviously a huge issue in terms of their feeling able to come forward when they are in forced labour. However, there are people who are here perfectly legally but may be tied to certain jobs or conditions of entry. That has been part of the picture around-
Q349 Chair: Presumably, these are non-EU migrants. No EU migrants have that restriction, apart from some of the Romanians and Bulgarians, but that will end fairly soon.
Nancy Kelley: Exactly. I think that, essentially, it is relevant to any further accessions. When and if further countries enter the EU, it is important to be aware that the restrictions that did apply to previous accession countries-
Q350 Chair: When I read that, it struck me that these sorts of problem arise only because of the original problems, as it were. When people are being exploited, their status is another factor that makes them even more marginal, but if the first set of issues were overcome, the question of their status would not be a difficulty. Is that correct?
Nancy Kelley: I think that is right to a certain degree. A range of things make people vulnerable to forced labour. We have talked about a lot of those-things such as conditions in the host country and not having English as a first language. One of the factors is that your right to remain is limited. Whether that is the best route by which to undo the knot is a different question; it is simply important to know that, as it stands, we know that that did affect the vulnerability of former accession country nationals. That is something to bear in mind for the future process.
Q351 Chair: Next.
Nancy Kelley: I have talked about the trade unions, haven’t I?
Nancy Kelley: I think that is the end of my big list of areas, you will be glad to know.
Dr Geddes: The only other thing that we have highlighted in the report and has not come out directly here is the importance, from the perspective of any worker who is having issues, of knowing where to go for support. The current picture is that, at a local level, the places to go where there might be clear signposting of information and advisers who can help with their language difficulties are the sorts of place where funding is not exactly abundant at this point in time. We have made some suggestions in the report about how important that has been in enabling those who have issues to come forward, know their rights, understand their situations and know what way forward they can take. In the area with which I have been working-east-central Scotland-I know that the places where people can go for that are really quite limited and that the resources are under a lot of pressure just now.
Q352 Chair: One of the things that you have not mentioned at all is health and safety. That has surprised me. I would have thought that this is a group of employees who are under an enormous amount of pressure and that health and safety is bound to be a factor. Have you just been taking that for granted, or are they in the sort of environment where health and safety is not a hazard? If you are picking berries, you may get your fingers pricked and stuff like that, but you are not likely to be killed or anything, whereas, on the factory side of things, I would have thought that there is the potential for substantial injuries. I am not clear from the report-maybe I missed this-about the balance in Scotland between field and factory, in terms of the numbers involved. We have tended to concentrate on field. Am I getting that wrong? Are a substantial number of them actually in factories or industrial situations?
Dr Geddes: I am trying to think of the exact proportion. In the group that was interviewed in Scotland, there were a fair few people who had been working in meat-processing and chicken factories-those sorts of plant. Yes, they are working in different conditions, although I would not trivialise what happens on farms. The work there can be quite hard. One of the issues that we found was that the rate at which people are being asked to work on a daily basis, for a large number of hours per day, can take its toll on them; there is no question about that. However, that is different from standing in front of a line where nothing stops. Health and safety, of course, has a role in relation to the working time directive-the length of time that people are working-and should come in there. It has a role to think about policing.
Q353 Chair: I am not aware of this dimension. Unless I am mistaken, the dimension of health and safety and the Health and Safety Executive did not come up much in your report. You certainly mentioned length of working time and so on, but I expected you to say much more about health and safety matters. I am trying to probe why that did not come up.
Dr Geddes: It did not come up in the sense that here we were focusing on gathering testimony. It is certainly worth saying that the majority of workers probably would not know that the Health and Safety Executive existed, just as their awareness of other agencies would not necessarily be that strong. The interviewing indicated that they were not expected to know the complete regulatory or advice landscape-whatever it was. That is one of the major findings.
Q354 Jim McGovern: Does that also apply to the working time directive? Would they not know that that existed, either?
Dr Geddes: Yes. As I was speaking, I was thinking that the GLA should also be policing the length of time that people are working. One thing that the Health and Safety Executive is doing would be being looked at by the GLA, too, in the sense that people should have some sort of contract that states how long they will work, on average. If they work beyond 48 hours a week, I think, it should be done with their permission. Often we found that it was not-people were just expected to work as long as there was work every day.
Q355 Jim McGovern: They are meant to sign an opt-out, aren’t they?
Dr Geddes: Yes, but people were unaware of that sort of thing. If they were to be working, they were to be working. If overtime was required and they were asked to do it, the answer was yes, otherwise they were on their way. That sort of situation was again quite common. But there are health dimensions. There were reports of people feeling psychological and physical damage-everything from extreme fatigue to feeling sore from what they were doing. Whether that indicated that they were not getting the right level of protective kit, in some cases, or were being expected to provide it themselves-whatever it was-some issues were highlighted.
Q356 Chair: These are much more questions of health, if you can categorise them, as distinct from safety. I was genuinely surprised; I thought that much more would have been said about safety, because business people who are treating people badly in all these other dimensions are likely to be very lackadaisical about safety as well, whether it is factory or field. Unless I am mistaken, it didn’t come up at all. There was no mention of fingers being lost, machinery, falling or any sorts of accident.
Dr Geddes: I think I can recall one case where someone had an accident on a line and was dispatched to the hospital. Having taken time off, they were fearful of what would happen in terms of their job being kept for them at the end. I cannot honestly recall what happened in that particular situation, but it was the one instance that I can remember where there had been an accident. I do not know whether it led to any sort of safety reporting or safety change.
Q357 Chair: That is unlikely, I would have thought. One of the things that we have been discussing in relationship to construction, in particular, is the question of substantial under-reporting. You do not even mention that there were accidents that were not reported; you do not mention that there were accidents at all. I just want to make sure that, as far as you are aware, there were no such accidents, or accidents that were not reported-leaving aside the question of health, people being exhausted and all the rest of it-and that that is not an issue that we need to pursue.
Nancy Kelley: If I may interject a bit, I think that that would not be a safe conclusion to draw. Partly it comes back to this business of what people think normal working practices are-what you think is normal in terms of agricultural work, meat processing or whatever. You and I might expect safeguards around, say, handling of chemicals or working with machinery-that somebody would teach you how to use it, what a safe shut-off was and so on. If you come from a country with a different set of labour practices, you might not remark on them enough to say, when you are talking to a researcher, "This factory, or so and so, works in a particular way." In the Northern Ireland study that we did, we came across a few more cases of classic health and safety violations and of people who were sacked for getting sick, as it were, in those sorts of context. I think it would not be safe to assume that health and safety looks great in these working environments. It is probably safer to assume that there is systematic under-reporting, partly because of people’s concerns and partly because people may just think it is a normal way of working.
Dr Geddes: I think that is right. Maybe we did not focus our questions on this as much we did on other areas. I would reach the same conclusion as Nancy-that it is not safe to think that there are no issues. One thing that just occurred to me that did come up was around lack of breaks, which is a safety issue. Two people felt that they were not getting those sorts of break. That did not necessarily lead to an accident, but the risk associated with that was there, if you like. That was commonly reported.
Chair: I would like to try to draw it to a conclusion, because I think you have had a fair whack of the ball in terms of being able to articulate your position.
Q358 Jim McGovern: There are a couple of points that I was going to raise. I apologise for the fact that I had to leave to go to the Chamber; I met Gary as I was coming back and apologised to him. If the points have already been raised and answered, just point that out. When I was at school, I used to go to the berries every summer; that was how you got your school uniform and stuff like that. Whole families were there-adults, children, everybody. It was sort of the black economy-nobody paid tax, national insurance or anything like that. As far as I am aware, no schoolchildren now go to the berries, the potato picking or whatever; it is all migrant workers who do it. Are you aware of whether they pay national insurance and tax contributions?
Dr Geddes: They should.
Jim McGovern: They should, yes.
Dr Geddes: The GLA was set up so that a licensed labour provider should provide a written contract or agreement between the labour provider and the worker setting out what they should be getting paid and what deductions should be made, as well as their rights regarding sick pay, holiday time and those sorts of thing. Obviously, things such as holiday time do not apply if you are there for a very short period of time, but there is an idea that some sort of standard agreement should be set out that makes clear that, if deductions are listed on your pay slip-there should be a pay slip, too-they are for reasons such as national insurance. Something should be in place there. We found that people were feeling that deductions were appearing on their wage slips and they did not know what they were for; they were not for national insurance or any taxation purposes. There were also cases where we felt that it was fairly clear that any money taken off for that was not making its way through to HMRC.
Q359 Jim McGovern: Some of the people I have spoken to would probably regard it as a benefit to get a pay slip.
Dr Geddes: That is right. That is what they should be getting, and not everyone was getting those sorts of thing. It was often reported that, in their last couple of weeks of employment in a job, people were not paid on time or paid at all. Sometimes, there was no recompense in those situations. There are examples of that. People should be getting a pay slip, but it is certainly the case that not everyone was getting one.
Q360 Jim McGovern: My other point may have been covered, but it is something that the Chair and I have discussed. Do the regulations regarding HMOs-houses in multiple occupancy-apply on farms, where they are telling two people to share a bed and there are six people to a hut?
Dr Geddes: Yes. We had a discussion earlier.
Chair: We have pretty well thrashed that one to death, actually. There are not many subjects unthrashed, let me tell you.
Q361 Jim McGovern: It has been covered then; I will read about it in the report. I was trying to find out this morning, as regards the Dundee area, whether those regulations applied. You can confirm that they do.
Dr Geddes: Yes. There has been some work-we talked about this earlier-between the GLA and local authorities. You may recall from Angus that there was a situation where a caravan was on fire and there were fatalities at the end of that. As a result of that, there has been a particular keenness around the way in which accommodation standards are met and regulated in Scotland, which has perhaps been different and ahead of the curve, as it were, compared with other parts of the UK.
Jim McGovern: I apologise if I repeated something that has already been covered.
Q362 Chair: It is okay; I appreciate that you have a constituency thing coming up. Finally, can I turn to the question of the impact that your report has had in Scotland? Do you feel that any momentum has been generated by it, or has it just dropped into a pool and sunk to the bottom? I did not have the impression that all the agencies that came along to the meeting in the Scottish Parliament were going to rush out and do anything. I got the impression from some of them that they were there just to make sure that, as I said, it sank to the bottom-that they were not going to be damaged at all, that there were going to be no reputational difficulties and that they were just going to move on. Am I misreading that?
Dr Geddes: No. You are asking a question about how anybody should respond to any one piece of academic research. Increasingly, we have a question of impact to face in our research, from a variety of funders. Rowntree would be no exception to that. We have to recognise that this is a process. What we have done is contribute new evidence to an area that is still quite complex, difficult to understand and dynamic, but it is consistent with existing evidence and we hope that it will continue to grow. If you are asking me whether our report is the silver bullet for solving everything, the answer is, of course it is not. Are we saying that it is adding a stock of knowledge? As it has been done independently, we do have some confidence as to that.
Q363 Chair: I got the impression that a number of people are concerned about reputational damage. It is only fair that we make clear that we intend to damage as much as we possibly can the reputation of those whose reputation should be damaged. If we can find examples of malpractice, we intend to highlight it. That is why we are so keen to have examples from yourselves of farms, factories or, indeed, housing providers that have not been up to standard. With that caveat, we would want to draw things to a close by asking you whether there are any questions for which you had answers prepared that we have not asked. If not, if there is anything you reflect on as you meander back to Dundee or anywhere else, could you be in touch with us, because we have other witnesses in next week? Anything that you have to contribute to that would be very helpful. I think we have already asked you to give us evidence about offences-that whole structure-which would be immensely helpful.
The final point I want to make-maybe it is for the academics to reflect on this-is that there does not seem to be a mechanism by which this work that you have done in Dundee ever comes to people who are in the position to make comments or observations or to intervene politically on it. If we had not seen it through the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, we would not have known that it existed. It ties in quite neatly with some other work that we are doing. I do not know whether it is possible to see what other work even Dundee University-never mind the rest of the Scottish universities-is undertaking that would be of relevance either to us or to other parliamentarians. It seems a waste that you are working away in your ivory towers and nobody else is aware of it.
Dr Geddes: That is a big question. As I said, all universities-Universities UK, if you like-are very well aware of the need to engage, as appropriate and where possible, when research is applied or has some sort of dimension like this. It is something that is rising rapidly up the agenda. Of course, not all research is like that, but the idea of impact is the mantra for applied research just now. I cannot emphasise that enough. It is something that we are being told from on high, from different directions, all the time. There is a sense that answering the sort of question that you are asking is very important, has not always been done in the past and should be done better in the future.
Chair: Thank you very much for coming along.
 Ev – further evidence promised