The police are involved in a ‘cover-up’ of their blacklisting role and can’t be trusted to investigate themselves, the Blacklist Support Group has said. The group was speaking out after the Guardian reported it had seen evidence that the police gathered intelligence on trade union activists and passed the information to The Consulting Association, a clandestine blacklisting agency that unlawfully stored secret files on thousands of workers.
Peter Francis, the whistleblower who revealed that police spied on supporters of the Stephen Lawrence family, says he believes that he personally collected some of the intelligence that later appeared in the files of the blacklisting agency.
The agency – funded by Britain’s biggest building firms – prevented workers they deemed to be politically troublesome from getting jobs in the construction industry. Many trade unionists say their lives were ruined for years when they were barred from getting work as a result.
However, the previously confidential files seen by the Guardian reveal how the blacklisting agency also secretly recorded the political activities of the trade unionists when they took part in demonstrations outside their workplaces, including anti-racist activity.
The testimony from the former undercover officer about the information he gathered on the personal lives and protest activities of the trade unionists is disclosed as a team of police officers led by Derbyshire chief Constable, Mick Creedon, investigates the conduct of the Special Branch unit that planted spies in political campaigns for four decades.
As part of its inquiry, Creedon’s team is examining claims that police colluded with the blacklisters and shared intelligence from its own files on so-called “subversives”.
The new evidence has emerged after senior figures involved for many years in running the blacklisting admitted to a parliamentary committee that the blacklisters regularly exchanged information, or had contacts, with the police.
Francis has been disclosing details of his covert work for the unit, the Special Demonstration Squad, as he supports calls for a public inquiry into its infiltration of political groups between 1968 and 2008. The new files are drawn from a database compiled by the Consulting Association, and indicated there was “ongoing” police surveillance of construction activists.
Another undercover police officer exposed in the Rob Evans and Paul Lewis book Undercover, posed as a construction worker during the late 90s and actually chaired campaign meetings reported on blacklist files.
This suspicion was backed up by David Clancy, investigations manager at the ICO who has told a court and a Select Committee that in his opinion “information on some of the files could only have been supplied by the police”.
Creedon’s team is now investigating claims from the blacklisted workers that portions of the files could only have come from the police or security services, as managers in the construction industry could simply not have known about demonstrations the trade unionists were attending outside of their work hours.
Dave Smith, a spokesperson for the blacklisted workers, said: “Policing investigating the police is never going to get to the truth. This smacks of a cover-up. Only a judge-led public inquiry will get to the facts of collusion between the state and the blacklisters.”
He added: “The mountain of evidence about the police and security services spying on trade union activists is now damning. We even know the names of the undercover cops who spied on us. This is not about a couple of rogue officers: this is deliberate state collusion with big business.”
He said it was “now crystal clear that the police and security services were involved in that human rights abuse.”
Smith criticised both the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Metropolitan Police refusing to disclose documents confirming the collusion between the police and blacklisters. “Worse still, it seems the police are still spying on us,” he said. “Why are the authorities refusing to give us the documents? Why are the police spying on blacklisted workers campaigning for the truth about this national scandal?
“This is a cover up – plain and simple. How can victims of this human rights abuse have any faith whatsoever in the truth being uncovered when the police are investigating themselves? Only a full Leveson style public inquiry will get to the truth – what more evidence do the bloody politicians need?”
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson told the Guardian: “A complaint alleging breach of the Data Protection Act by police was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission who directed it should be subject to a local investigation. The investigation is at an early stage and we are not prepared to provide further details at this time.”