By Dave Smith, Blacklist Support Group
Bosses from blacklist companies were humiliated during a packed 16 July 2014 witness session for a parliamentary Select Committee when MPs repeatedly accused them of setting out to “deliberately mislead parliament”.
The Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into blacklisting heard evidence from Nick Pollard, chief executive of Balfour Beatty, Andrew Ridley-Barker, managing director of Vinci Construction and Callum Tuckett, group finance and commercial director at Laing O’Rourke plus Richard Slaven, partner at Pinsent mason solicitors and Richard Duke from the PR company Grayling.
Conservative MP Simon Reevell condemned the letter sent by the industry’s hired spin doctor Richard Dukes on behalf of the blacklist compensation scheme which he said was “intended to mislead every member of parliament” by claiming falsely that unions and representatives of blacklisted workers supported the scheme.
Labour MP Jim McGovern told the industry bosses point blankly that they had “misled this committee and misled parliament.”
MPs identified that Vinci, Laing O’Rourke and Balfour Beatty companies had paid in excess of £335,000 to the Consulting Association which equated to approximately 200,000 name checks on construction workers. 600 workers had either been denied employment or had personal information information added to the blacklist database by the 3 firms or their predecessor companies.
The construction bosses were continually ridiculed and interrupted by Labour, Liberal and Conservative MPs alike who refused to accepted their grovelling apologies for their role in the Consulting Association blacklisting scandal with Select Committee chair Ian Davidson accusing the scheme of being “purely damage limitation” rather than a genuine desire to show “repentance.”
The levels of compensation being offered by the scheme were also forensically taken apart by MPs and Richard Slaven, partner at law firm Pinsent Mason was forced to admit that he could not quote a single authority to justify the pitifully low figures being offered by the blacklist firms who MPs identified as having a combined annual turnover of £34 billion. Slaven was accused of being “not exactly razor sharp” by former barrister Simon Reevell.
The MPs suggested a number of changes that the firms said they would go back and consider including extending the schemes period to three years to allow for the High Court trial to conclude before workers needed to make a decision.
Ian Davidson again repeated his suggestion that the compensation scheme that had been condemned by the Blacklist Support Group and trade unions should exist to provide “interim damages” which would be increased once the High Court trial finished. The MPs stated that unless the scheme was drastically improved and the firms showed real attempts to clean up their acts that they should “be denied access to future public contracts.”