§ Mr. Beith
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with representatives of the farming industry about the impact of the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 on(a) machinery co-operatives, (b) machinery rings and (c) voluntary arrangements between farmers which involve the sharing of employees' time. 
§ Alun Michael
The definition of a gangmaster in the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 has been drafted as widely as possible to avoid creating loopholes which might be exploited by unscrupulous gangmasters. The licensing requirements in the Act would apply to the supply of labour with machinery or associated with the supply of services by a contractor, however the Act makes provision for the Secretary of State to exclude specific activities from the licensing arrangements through secondary legislation. This flexible approach will ensure licensing applies where there is a risk that gang workers will be exploited while avoiding the imposition of unnecessary burdens on bona fide farming arrangements where the risk of exploitation is minimal.
When the Gangmasters (Licensing) Bill was being debated I confirmed that the Government would bring forward regulations to exempt from the licensing arrangements farming operations which do not involve the supply of gang labour. I also confirmed that the Government would consult widely on the scope of these exclusions.
This process has started and a working group involving all key stakeholders has been brought together to work with us on this. The working group met for the first time on 2 August 2004 and will continue to meet during the autumn. A full draft of the Exclusions Regulations will be made available for comment later in the year. This will give everyone with an interest an opportunity to comment.