Lord Tebbit has revealed when he was Secretary of State for Employment in the Thatcher government (1981-83), he received reports from senior Special Branch officers about union activists, which apparently included such specific detail as where the union members went on holiday.
The Tory grandee’s revelations came at a 16 March 2021 parliamentary meeting to discuss ongoing problems with the public inquiry into human rights abuses carried out by undercover police chaired by Sir John Mitting.
The parliamentary Zoom meeting was hosted by Richard Burgon MP and the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS) that was attended by MPs and members of the House of Lords from across the political spectrum. Lord Tebbit told the meeting that he also held private meetings with a former General Secretary of the EETPU to discuss how to tackle leftwing members of the electricians’ union.
Lord Tebbit’s comments came in response to a contribution from Dave Smith, secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, who highlighted that the internal police investigation Operation Reuben has already confirmed that undercover police from the UK’s political policing units including the Special Demonstration Squad and even MI5 had infiltrated trade unions and the intelligence they gathered was shared with major employers and the notorious blacklisting organisations; the Economic League and The Consulting Association.
Thousands of workers in the construction industry and other sectors who took on the role of a union safety rep or shop steward had their employment prospects blighted by blacklisting, which resulted in long periods of unemployment and in some cases family breakdowns or even suicides.
Providing information and briefings to key business contacts was part of the industry liaison role of the Special Branch Industrial Unit and the police continues to provide such briefings today via Operation Fairway and the National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit Industrial Liaison Section.
At the end of the meeting, Dave Smith thanked the Conservative peer for his contribution saying, “during our long campaign and at the public inquiry we have continually asked how high up the political chain intelligence about union members gathered by police spies was shared. Thank you for confirming that it went all the way to the top of government.”
Also speaking at the parliamentary meeting were:
Lois Austin – Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance
‘Alison’ – Police Spies Out of Lives – talking about the experiences of women activists who suffered sexual and human rights abuse by spycops
Suresh Grover – The Monitoring Group – who spoke about Black & asian family justice campaigns that were infiltrated by undercover police
Lydia Dagostino – solicitor for the Non-State Non-Police core participants in the public inquiry.
Parliamentarians attending included:
John McDonnell MP (Lab) – founder member of the Blacklist Support Group
Diane Abbott MP (herself a core participant in the public inquiry)
Hilary Benn MP (Lab) – who spoke about an undercover police officer Lynn Watson being involved in a protest at his constituency office.
Chris Stephens MP (SNP shadow spokesperson on employment)
Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP (Lab)
Baroness Shami Chakrabarti (Lab)
Nadia Whittome MP (Lab)
Katy Clark MP (Lab)
Aspana Begum MP (Lab)
Anne McLaughin MP (SNP)