Employment Minister Pat McFadden has told fellow MPs the matter of blacklisting in the construction industry needs to be dealt with “diligently and speedily”.
In a debate in the House of Commons last night Mr McFadden confirmed the Consulting Association, which has been found to have been keeping a blacklist of construction workers, will be prosecuted and contractors found to have been using the service would also be thoroughly investigated.
He said: “The Information Commissioner is following up his investigation in various ways. First, [the Consulting Association] is to be prosecuted.
“I understand that the case will be heard towards the end of April.
“I also understand that the Information Commissioner is making further inquiries with the subscriber companies to determine the extent of their involvement. Those inquiries could lead to further action by the Information Commissioner.”
Labour MP Michael Clapham, who requested an adjournment debate on the issue, told Whitehall: “The working practices of the 1930s have no place in our modern construction industry.”
He added: “The practice impacts on the health of the construction industry and is accordingly a matter of public concern.”
The issue came to light earlier this month when the Information Commissioner’s Office claimed dozens of the country’s biggest construction companies had been using confidential personal data to blacklist “trouble-makers”.
Balfour Beatty, Costain, NG Bailey, Laing O’Rourke, Morgan Est, Miller Construction, Sir Robert McAlpine and Vinci are among the contractors embroiled in the scandal.
About 25 construction companies are now said to have been subscribers to the Consulting Association’s list, and about 18 of them appear to have used the system recently.
The association secretly listed more than 3,300 individuals and kept more detailed information on 1,600 of them.
Parliament heard the information related to the employment histories of individuals and in some cases referred to their involvement in trade unions or their participation in industrial action.
Provisions for regulation against such activities already exist under the 1999 Employment Relations Act, but the regulations where never introduced on the grounds that the Government believed that blacklisting no longer existed.
Parliament heard that, when there was a consultation in 2003 regarding regulations on blacklisting, only the CBI and the Engineering Employers Federation “said that they hoped that the regulations would not need to be introduced”.
Labour MP David Anderson criticised the bodies for not supporting the regulation.
He told the debate: “Those two bodies epitomise what is wrong with this country. There is absolutely no level playing field. If this had been the other way round, and trade unions were restricting their trade, they would have been up before a High Court judge.”
Trade unions Ucatt and Unite are both seeking legal advice on suing some of the named contractors.