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Ten questions about blacklisting industrial workers we need a public inquiry to answer

The blacklisted workers’ case against McAlpine will soon begin in the High Court. But even before that we need a commitment that a Labour Government will institute a public inquiry into the blacklisting scandal, arguably the worst human rights abuse against workers since the war which robbed thousands of them of a job for 20 or more years. This was the subject of an excellent Opposition Day debate in the House initiated by Chuka Umunna a few months ago, but it does need to be followed through.

The public inquiry should investigate the following 10 issues:

  1. The setting up of a blacklist by Ian Kerr in 1993, and since the continuation of blacklisting was widely suspected after the dissolution of the Economic League, why it took 16 years for any action by the authorities to stop it.
  2. Why the raid on the Droitwich offices of the Consulting Association in 2009 was triggered not by any public authority, but by reaction to a newspaper article.
  3. How much police and MI5 collusion had taken place over the years in supplying information which, it has now been admitted in an employment tribunal and to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, could only have come from these sources.
  4. Why the penalty imposed on Kerr was so derisory – a fine of £5,000 – and why all the 44 construction companies involved were not prosecuted.
  5. Why enforcement notices were issued against only 14 of the 44 companies, and why some of the heaviest users of the blacklist , notably McAlpine and Skanska, were not included despite their making 12-13,000 inquiries in a single year.
  6. Why only 5-10% of the documentation found at the Droitwich office was removed when the remaining 90-95% almost certainly contained incriminating material on the blacklisting of other building workers beyond the 3,213 identified, and very likely involved other industries and occupations, including apparently politicians.
  7. Why the ICO has not informed everyone whose names they found, as opposed to simply responding to inquiries.
  8. Why the media have largely swept the whole matter under the carpet, just as they did in the early stages of the phone-hacking scandal (with the honourable exception of the Guardian).
  9. How far blacklisting has continued after the 2009 raid, and whether it has corrupted other industries, e.g. seafaring: Balfour Beatty confirmed just 3 months ago that it had conducted blacklisting checks at the construction of the Olympic venues, and there are well-sourced claims that blacklisting was used at Crossrail, MOD sites, and Portcullis House.
  10. The public inquiry should also aim to remedy huge gaps in the current law. It should be made a criminal offence (which it is not at the moment) not only to compile and maintain a blacklist, but also to supply information, solicit information, or use information related to a blacklist, and that should include blacklists held abroad as well. Secondly, there must a legal right written into statute not to be blacklisted, and an automatic right to be compensated for any breach of that right.

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