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Police question evidence of blacklisting collusion

A trade union will go to court to force the government to release information about suspected police collusion on a blacklist of construction workers.

The GMB union will issue a legal order against the Home Office to release any information about the police supplying data to the blacklist run by The Consulting Association, a spokeswoman said.

She also confirmed that comedian Mark Thomas will join the GMB’s legal action against construction firms alleged to have been involved in the blacklist after he discovered his name appeared on the list of more than 3,000 workers.

It has been alleged in The Observer newspaper that police supplied information to the blacklist.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) told lawyers for the victims that it was likely that the police supplied information to the database.

However, the lawyers said a senior police officer disputed the IPCC’s claim.

They said that detective superintendent Steve Craddock, who is senior investigating officer for the Operation Herne inquiry into the activities of undercover officers, said the operation had revealed “no conclusive evidence” that the Metropolitan Police shared information with TCA. 

Claire Windsor, a solicitor at law firm Christian Khan who is representing some of the victims who are part of the Blacklist Support Group, told Construction News: “The IPCC informed the Blacklist Support Group that some initial scoping had been completed by the Operation Herne team which identified that ‘it was likely that all Special Branches were involved in providing information about potential employees who were suspected of being involved in subversive activity’.

“We are now told by a senior investigating officer for Operation Herne that ‘The Operation Herne has not revealed such information. In fact, we have, to date discovered no conclusive evidence that information held by the Metropolitan Police was ever shared with the Consulting Association.’”

A spokeswoman for Mr Craddock’s force, Derbyshire Police, said: “The strand of investigation within Operation Herne that this question comes under is not yet complete. However, to date no evidence of any police involvement in the so-called blacklisting matter has been uncovered. Mr Craddock is aware of the apparent contradiction and is looking into how that may have arisen. Operation Herne will report on the ‘blacklisting’ matter to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner in due course.”

In response to Mr Craddock’s comments, the IPCC said: “This aspect of Operation Herne has gone back to be locally investigated for the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).

“Any initial correspondence during the IPCC’s involvement would have been based on initial research provided by the MPS Operation Herne scoping team at the time the letter was sent.

“Developments since that and since the IPCC sent this back to be locally investigated are a matter for the MPS.”

Ms Windsor said the Information Commissioner’s Office told the Blacklist Support Group that they hold notes of a meeting between the Consulting Association the police’s National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU) dated November 2008. But the ICO did not release them citing section 44 of the Freedom of Information Act.  The watchdog discovered the notes during a raid on the Consulting Association in 2009.

Labour’s shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said the report “confirmed what many had suspected for some time” and called for an inquiry into blacklisting.

He said: “It is deeply concerning that police officers are believed to have colluded in blacklisting.”

The allegations of police collusion follow a move by eight major contractors to establish a compensation scheme for blacklisted workers.

Any of the 3,000 construction workers whose names appeared on The Consulting Association’s blacklist could apply for compensation if they have a “legitimate claim”, according to the firms behind a proposed compensation scheme for blacklisted workers.

The companies – Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci – are among the firms named as co-defendants by Sir Robert McAlpine in a court case being bought by blacklisted workers in the High Court.

The other two defendants in the court case – Bam and Amec – were not included on the list of companies participating in the compensation scheme.

A spokeswoman for the scheme told Construction News: “The scheme will be open to anyone who can demonstrate their name is on the list and who has a legitimate claim.” However, she could not yet give details of what would constitute a ‘legitimate claim’.

The eight companies in the scheme said they “apologise for their involvement with TCA and the impact that its database may have had on any individual construction worker”.

Justin Bowden, national officer at the GMB union, which is helping to bring one of the two blacklisting court cases currently under way, described the apology as “lukewarm”.

He said the union would continue with its “own up, clean up, pay up” campaign and wanted everyone who appears on the blacklist to be notified.

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