MPs look for inquiry into illegal blacklists
Demands have been made by MPs for a Leveson-style inquiry into allegations that construction workers were blacklisted for decades in Britain, including charges that Irish workers were illegally barred from ministry of defence projects.
Legal action has been taken by hundreds of workers in the London High Court, who allege two organisations, the Economic League up to 1973, and the Consulting Association up to 2009, kept illegal files on them.
The Consulting Association was raided by the Information Commissioner in 2009, which found that 40 British construction companies had paid for 3,000 workers to be vetted.
On Tuesday, Cullum McAlpine, a director of McAlpine Construction, one of Britain’s biggest construction firms, acknowledged that his company had used the Consulting Association, but not for improper investigations.
Last month, a senior , UK Information Commissioner official told MPs of concerns that the blacklists might have been put together with illegally obtained information from police officers and MI5.
Blaming “a secretive, insidious and shady practice that has brought shame on our construction industry”, Labour MP Chuka Umunna said those “responsible for it have yet to be properly held to account”.
“For a long time many of our construction workers have suspected that they were being systematically denied work – work that they were more than qualified to do. As a result, lives have been ruined.”
Mr Umunna said the investigations by the Consulting Association – which charged firms a £3,000 annual subscription and £2.20 for each inquiry – discriminated against workers if they raised health and safety questions or were union members.
Facing MPs’ questions earlier, prime minister David Cameron said the blacklisting was “completely unacceptable” and Labour in government had been right to bring in legislation to make it unlawful.
The Consulting Association’s head, Ian Kerr, died in December shortly after giving evidence to the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, which has been conducting a long investigation.