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MP calls for blacklisting to be a crime

A Labour MP has called for blacklisting to be made a criminal offence after two of his colleagues revealed they were victims of the practice.

Labour MPs John Mann and Jim Sheridan said they had been blacklisted by the Economic League, a precursor to The Consulting Association, which held a blacklist of more than 3,000 construction workers.

In an adjournment debate on blacklisting, Bassetlaw MP Mr Mann said he discovered he had been on the Economic League’s list in the 1980s when a job offer he had received was withdrawn.

He said: “The list was published at an event at the University of London, and I found my name on it.”

Several MPs called for all the people on the blacklist to be notified.

But Liberal Democrat employment minister Jo Swinson pointed out the difficulties the Information Commissioner’s Office faced in tracing those whose contact information was incomplete.

She said that the ICO was investigating evidence of continuing blacklisting supplied by the Scottish Affairs Committee, which is holding a parliamentary inquiry into the subject, adding that “we should wait to see the reports”.

Labour MP for Nottingham North Graham Allen said blacklisting should be a criminal offence and victims should have an automatic right to compensation.

Eight contractors – Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci – announced this month that they would create a compensation scheme for blacklisted workers.

Labour has called for a full public inquiry into blacklisting in the construction industry.

Mr Sherdian, who is Labour MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, said he had been offered a job as a hospital porter but the offer was subsequently withdrawn.

He said: “Sometime later I met the matron and she told me that I had got the job, but that a name check had been done with the Economic League, and it showed that my family were involved in trade union activities, which meant I could not have it.”

Mr Allen added: “I ask the minister and her shadow to make it clear that there should be a positive right not to be blacklisted and that workers who find themselves on blacklists should have an automatic right to compensation, without the burden of proof being placed on them.

“The retroactive compensation scheme that has been mentioned should also be established to compensate blacklisted workers.

“Furthermore, protection should be extended clearly to include trade union-related activities, as well as just trade union activities.

“Above all, blacklisting should be a criminal offence and companies that use blacklists should be open to prosecution.”

Conservative MP for Stevenage Stephen McPartland called for a cross-party campaign to get the construction companies that used The Consulting Association’s database to apologise to those blacklisted and pay them compensation.

He said: “What we would ultimately like is for no one in the government or local government to provide them with any public sector contracts or money until they have taken those actions.”

However, he said he “reserved judgement” on the idea of holding a public inquiry since “no one was sure what the outcome” had been of the Leveson inquiry into press standards and he was “keen to get justice” for the victims of blacklisting.

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