Those Guilty of Blacklisting Should Be Barred from Public Contracts

Ian Lavery’s speech in parliament on blacklisting (abridged from Hansard)

ian-lavery-mp-for-wansbeck-in-northumberland-126854350The blacklisting of trade unionists is an unfair and insidious practice that involves the systematic compilation of information about individual trade unionists by their employers and recruiters in order to discriminate against them, although not just because they are members of trade unions. There are people on blacklists who are not members of trade unions, but who have merely been to their employer and exercised their rights under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, as my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr Anderson) said. If there is something wrong in the workplace, there is a duty under that Act to report it. As far as we are aware, people have suffered the consequences of doing that.

We are all very much aware of the information being discussed by the Scottish Affairs Committee. To be honest, I think it has been invaluable, because it has brought the issue to the forefront. For many years it has been hidden, but for the first time we now have real evidence….  Some 3,600 files were seized by the Information Commissioner’s Office—files on politicians, academics, journalists, trade unionists and people who might just say, “Boo!” to their employers, who might not like it. There are many, many files. The Consulting Association’s blacklist, however, contained around 3,213 individuals and was used by more than 40 contractors, including most major UK construction firms, which vet individuals for employment.

A mass of information was left behind because it was not covered by any warrant. The information seized revealed that 40 of the biggest construction companies in Britain were drawn to paying money to find out who they should not employ. They included household names such as Taylor Woodrow, McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, Skandia and Carillion. …On its own admission, Carillion has had £2.5 billion per annum from public contracts, at the same time as placing ordinary citizens on blacklists and stopping them working. It cannot be allowed and it must be stopped as soon as practicably possible. From July to September 2008, McAlpine spent £12,839 making 5,836 blacklist checks—a total of 63 a day. That corresponded with McAlpine’s building of the Olympic stadium. How disgraceful can you get? A major company such as McAlpine penalising people for whatever, at the same time as having multi-million-pound Government contracts, is, as many people have said, absolutely insidious.

I believe we should perhaps go a little further than we have discussed today. I am obviously willing for more debate and discussion; indeed,… we should have a public inquiry into blacklisting on a par with Leveson. We need to call for those guilty of blacklisting not to be given any more public contracts until they apologise and compensate people and their families for blacklisting them. We definitely need a change in the law to make blacklisting a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment and unlimited fines. That would be a deterrent for blacklisting—that is something that we should be looking at and it should be in legislation. Carillion has been named. It is important that other organisations come clean, come to the fore, step up to the plate, erase the past, look to the future and stop blacklisting people, causing mayhem and financial distress to many, many people.

My heart gans out to them people who might be listening to this debate and thinking, “I’ve not had a job for many years; I wonder if I’m on the list,” and they cannot find out whether they are. Let us deliver a real result from this debate for those people. …. Let us hope that this is the first of many important debates to ensure that justice is seen to be done for those on blacklists and to prevent blacklisting in the future.

10 comments on “Those Guilty of Blacklisting Should Be Barred from Public Contracts

  1. Uncle Albert on said:

    “It cannot be allowed and it must be stopped as soon as practicably possible. From July to September 2008, McAlpine spent £12,839 making 5,836 blacklist checks—a total of 63 a day. That corresponded with McAlpine’s building of the Olympic stadium.”

    It has been known that these lists have been in existence for decades but like many other areas of concern to Labour voters, such as housing, one has to assume Labour’s inaction, when in power, was the result of the narrowing of the social base from which Labour MPs are drawn.

    Apart from one or two exceptions such as Lavery, Labour’s elite seem increasingly unable to recognise the interests and concerns of the those they are supposed to represent.

    I’m reminded of Ed Miliband’s visit to Bradford in the run up Galloway’s victory. A young Muslim woman introduced herself to Ed, telling him she’d taken part in a reality tv show: “I was on Make Bradford British,” she said. “Great!” said Miliband, beaming at her camouflage print headscarf and exquisitely made-up face, “Tell me about the scheme!”

  2. Uncle Albert on said:

    Uncle Albert: Ed Miliband’s visit to Bradford in the run up Galloway’s victory

    Correction: the visit was a damage limitation exercise following Galloway’s victory.

  3. Uncle Albert: one has to assume Labour’s inaction, when in power, was the result of the narrowing of the social base from which Labour MPs are drawn.

    A major problem in my view and its hard to see what can be done about it in the short term.

  4. #4 Probably in the long-term, too…

    One of our MPs in Southampton is standing down at the next election, and the likely replacements are a Blue Labour-supporting journalist who lives in Lewisham and did PPE at Oxford, or another Oxford graduate and long-term Oxford city councillor who also works in London.

    The fact that the only local candidate who has been mentioned is a long-standing member of the party machine (and likely next council leader, when the current one sods off to be an MEP) as well just shows how limited the pool is. God forbid any working-class people who actually live on the estates they’re aiming to represent should ever be considered outside of canvassing every few years.

    I can’t remember the last time, even at a local level, I met a Labour candidate under forty who’s actually got their hands dirty. All just lawyers, charity workers and full-time wannabe politicos.

    It really is like they’re from another planet. Even their good ideas mark the stamp of being just that – something that occurred to them, but which doesn’t really matter to them personally.

    For instance, it’s good that many Labour councils have taken up the living wage campaign. But why should it be restricted to those employed by local authorities? Why isn’t Labour just going to legislate for a national living wage? Is it seriously considered more acceptable to subsidise low wages through tax credits and funnel public money via housing benefit to private landlords?

    Even where Labour is ‘for’ the working class, it’s never ‘of’ or ‘by’ it.

  5. #5 It’s refreshing to come accross someone who doesn’t believe lawyers get their hands dirty :)

    I thought I’d get that one in first!

    Seriously though I understand that there is legal action being pursued by victims of this appalling abuse and anyone who discovers or suspects that they have been the victims of it should seek advice.

    I remember many years ago when I was sacked from a job in a hotel for no clearly established reason but in fact because someone I told I was in a union grassed on me (no way I would have been able to prove it).

    I never tried to get a job in the hotel industry again but I often wondered how I would get on if I did.

  6. Vanya: Seriously though I understand that there is legal action being pursued by victims of this appalling abuse and anyone who discovers or suspects that they have been the victims of it should seek advice.

    Without wanting to play lawyers it does occur to me that the appropriate criminal charge is conspiracy and we could add joint enterprise to that.

    Manzil: One of our MPs in Southampton is standing down at the next election, and the likely replacements are a Blue Labour-supporting journalist who lives in Lewisham and did PPE at Oxford, or another Oxford graduate and long-term Oxford city councillor who also works in London.

    Yes its the whole ‘political class’ thing and its very bad for democratic politics. Someone told me that Harman and Dromey are trying to get their kid a seat if true that stinks too. The only way to change it is another long hard slog in the Labour party.

    Manzil: For instance, it’s good that many Labour councils have taken up the living wage campaign. But why should it be restricted to those employed by local authorities? Why isn’t Labour just going to legislate for a national living wage?

    I want to see a living wage too but its fine for councils to deliver things in their power and help build a head of steam for a manefesto committment.

  7. SA: The only way to change it is another long hard slog in the Labour party.

    Given the inertia and bureaucracy within the LP, it would be a long hard slog if large numbers of working-class people had all joined and were actively trying to take it out of the grips of the Oxbridge/think-tank conveyor belt. Lacking that involvement, I think it’s just flat-out impossible.

  8. BombasticSpastic on said:

    I can’t remember the last time, even at a local level, I met a Labour candidate under forty who’s actually got their hands dirty. All just lawyers, charity workers and full-time wannabe politicos.

    I know the feeling. The ward I live in, Stockwell, is one of the most ethnically diverse places in the country. We’re populated by black and white British, black Africans and Afro-Caribbeans, Portuguese, black and white Irish, black and white peoples from South America, a variety of different Europeans, etc.

    Yet, our three councilors are all British white. One works as a lobbyist in Parliament; another is a Research Associate at the Foreign Policy Centre; and the third, the one with the real job, is an actor.

    All three are white British and none live on council estates. Over the years I have commented on the lack of black or Portuguese people coming forward to stand in this diverse ward. Sadly my response is usually furrowed brows and shrugging shoulders.

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