MP says gangmaster clampdown sends out a message to those thinking of targetting the Fens

MP Steve Barclay

MP Steve Barclay - Credit: Archant

NE Cambs MP Steve Barclay said Operation Endeavour was a vital component in the battle against rogue gangmasters and called for tougher penalties to regulate their industry.

Mr Barclay said Operation Endeavour was an important step “in terms of its size, scale and sending out a message to potential criminals thinking of targeting our area.”

He said: “I have repeatedly raised in Parliament my concern at what appears to be a deep rooted problem which was concealed beneath radar.”

The MP revealed he had been briefed on the 300 strong task force by Chief Constable Simon Parr who visited him at his March constituency office on Friday.

He also revealed he had held two private meetings with the Home Secretary Theresa May last year to discuss the issues and invited Wisbech police inspector Robin Sissons to a meeting with revenue and customs officials.

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Mr Barclay said the meeting with officials included Lin Homer, a former chief executive of Suffolk County Council, who is now chief executive of the HMRC.

“Lin is from Norfolk and clearly understands the region and the problems and so was particularly helpful,” he said.

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Mr Barclay said: “These meetings could not be reported at the time but clearly they helped set the framework for this raid.”

He said he has twice highlighted the need in Parliament for intervention by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and HMRC and it was apparent more regulation and intervention was needed.

“Firstly the full weight of the law needs to be deployed in ensuring prosecutions are effectively taken forward”, he said.

“Secondly the government needs to rethink its rejection of my proposal to allow civil fines to be applied for illegal activity by gangmasters.

“Whilst today’s criminal sanctions are welcome – and I pay tribute to Cambs police for the work they have carried out- resourcing constraints will always restrict the capacity for large scale criminal investigations. This is not to mention the higher burden of proof required in criminal courts. That is why we need to improve civil fines where the burden of proof is less.”

Mr Barclay also said he had previous meetings with Robert Prisk, the former housing minister, and hoped now to meet his successor Kris Hopkins to discuss more government aid to Fenland to tackle houses in multiple occupation.

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