Prime Minister and Chairman of GLA
5th February 2009
Morecambe Bay Tragedy
Today marks the 5th anniversary of the Morecambe Bay Tragedy. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has extended his sympathies to the family and friends of those who perished.
The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, said:
“We have implemented the Gangmasters Licensing Act and will do whatever it takes to stamp out human trafficking and prosecute employers who persistently employ illegal migrants. The Government and colleagues in the trade union movement are committed to ensuring that vulnerable workers are aware of their employment rights and have the confidence and the resources to report abuses.”
On February 5th, 2004 23 Chinese cockle pickers lost their lives due to the behaviour of a ruthless and criminal gangmaster. The cockle pickers were stranded and abandoned on the mud flats of Morecambe Bay as they harvested cockles and were drowned by a rising tide.
They had no protection and they had no escape. The main defendant, Lin Liang Ren was convicted on 21 counts of manslaughter and sentenced to fourteen years imprisonment followed by deportation to China.
Paul Whitehouse, Chairman of the GLA said:
“Since the GLA was established we have worked tirelessly to ensure that rogue and criminal gangmasters are put out of business. We are helped in this work by the support of many partner agencies and organisations who all share our objectives of protecting vulnerable workers from abuse and protecting legitimate businesses who are undercut by the rogues. We are determined to ensure that the gangmasters we regulate meet the highest standards and pay the penalty when they step out of line. This is why we have recently ramped up our standards, expectations and enforcement activities.”
Notes to editors
1. Further quotes on the Morecambe Bay Tragedy can be found on the GLA website; http://www.gla.gov.uk/embedded_object.asp?id=1013466
2. The full statement from the Prime Minister is appended to this release.
3. The GLA was set up to protect workers in agriculture, shellfish gathering and food processing and packaging. There are approximately 1,200 gangmasters licensed by the GLA. To get and keep a licence, gangmasters must be „fit and proper‟.
4. It is illegal to operate without a licence, with the maximum penalty of ten years in prison and an unlimited fine.
5. The GLA launched Operation Ajax on 2 June 2008. This will see the Authority increasing its activities across the UK with an 18-month programme of targeted enforcement, involving unannounced raids.
6. It has been an offence to supply labour to the GLA regulated sectors since 1 October 2006, with the maximum penalty being ten years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
7. All licences that are revoked have the right of appeal including licences revoked with immediate effect.
8. GLA Chairman, Paul Whitehouse, is available for interview.
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