Blacklist Support Group Opening Statement for UCPI – Dave Smith

My name is Dave Smith, and I am an ex-construction worker who has been granted Core Participant status in the union strand of this Inquiry. I am speaking on behalf of the Blacklist Support Group, a campaign set up by and representing union members who were unlawfully blacklisted by major construction firms. When the BSG first spoke about being blacklisted for our union activities we were ignored by the authorities and ridiculed as conspiracy theorists. But blacklisting is not a conspiracy theory. It is conspiracy fact – and it involves the collusion of the police and the security services.

Trade unions arose during the period of the industrial revolution and the British Empire. At the same time that dynastic fortunes were being made in the slave trade, parliament was passing the Combinations Acts to make trade unions illegal. State spies were sent to spy on working class organisation ever since. Hostility towards trade unions – just like racism and sexism – has become so deeply ingrained in the mindset of the British establishment that it has carried on through the generations.

My good friend Lord Hendy has already mentioned the famous case of the Tolpuddle Martyrs who were transported to Australia for joining a union in 1834. But a less well-known event took place in the very same year. A meeting of the Master Builders in Ludgate Hill in London, where major employers drew up a plan to keep unions off their sites. Every craftsman looking for work was forced to sign the infamous ‘document’, declaring that they would never join a trade union. Failure to sign would result in dismissal or refusal of work. Without the welfare state, this would mean destitution for the workmen and their families.

In 1919, ex-military intelligence officers together with Conservative MPs and the captains of British industry set up the Economic League, to wage in their own words ‘a crusade for capitalism’ by keeping left wing union activists under surveillance and denying them work. The Economic League had both direct formal and (countless) informal links with the police, that resulted in thousands of workers losing their jobs in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, mining, engineering, banking and local government.

The Inquiry will find that after the Economic League closed down in 1993, Cullum McAlpine, a director of Sir Robert McAlpine Limited bought part of the Economic League blacklist to set up a new organisation called The Consulting Association. This secret body was comprised of major construction companies including; Balfour Beatty, Laing O’Rourke, Costain, Skanska, Kier, Bam, Vinci, AMEC and AMEY. It illegally orchestrated the blacklisting of construction workers and appointed a former Economic League employee, Ian Kerr, as Chief Executive. Files were kept on 3213 individuals, which included their name, national insurance number, address, photograph, phone number, car registration, information about their medical history and family members.

When a blacklisted worker was elected as a union representative, raised concerns about safety on a building site, submitted an employment tribunal or took part in a protest, this was recorded on his or her blacklist file. Every job applicant on major building projects, had their name checked against the blacklist and if there was a match, the worker would be refused work or dismissed. Each name check cost £2.20, the last set of invoices for Sir Robert McAlpine alone, when the company was building the Olympic Stadium was for £28,000. This is not a few managers chatting after work. This is industrial scale systematic blacklisting of union activists.

The Consulting Association did not have spies on every project; instead construction companies nominated a ‘main contact’, usually at director level; who received information from managers on site and then forward it to Ian Kerr. The Consulting Association even had its own constitution, which required companies to attend secret quarterly meetings with attendance at director level of the firm.

The consequence of the blacklisting conspiracy was that during the middle of the building boom, when employers were crying out for skilled labour, highly qualified and experienced workers found themselves virtually unemployable. When other construction workers were taking their families on holidays to Disneyland, blacklisted workers defaulted on their mortgages. The partners of blacklisted workers have spoken about having to take on two or three jobs to keep the family afloat, not being able to afford trainers or school trips for their children. One wife of a blacklisted worker has spoken about making the painful decision not to have a second child because of the family’s financial hardship. It is hardly surprising that there were arguments in relationships: families lost their homes and there were divorces.

In the 1990s I worked, and was a union safety rep, on the Jubilee Line Extension, and some of my fellow workers who took part in a safety dispute over the lack of fire alarms at London Bridge station ended up being blacklisted. Some of those blacklisted workers took their own lives. No one can say that blacklisting was the sole reason for these suicides, but prolonged periods of unemployment and family tensions cannot be good for anyone’s mental health.

Blacklisting is also responsible for workers’ deaths in another way. When union safety reps are repeatedly sacked just for highlighting unsafe working conditions such as asbestos, electrical safety or poor scaffolding, that sends out a message to other workers on site. It creates a climate of fear where other workers keep their heads down rather than speak up. The conscious blacklisting of safety reps is undoubtedly a contributory factor in the appalling workplace fatality rates in construction, the sector with consistently the highest number of deaths of any major industry in the UK.

Parliament was so outraged by the Consulting Association that as a direct consequence it introduced the Blacklisting Regulations 2010. A select committee investigation into Blacklisting in Employment published seven reports and called blacklisting a “real live conspiracy”In 2016, a High Court trial was settled when the UK’s biggest building firms made a public apology and paid damages for their blacklisting activities.

This Inquiry will find that is was not just the major employers who kept union activists under surveillance and contributed to our blacklisting – it was the political police at the heart of this public inquiry too. The police’s own internal investigation, Operation Herne has concluded:

Para. 4.2 – Police, including Special Branches and the Security Services supplied information to the blacklist funded by the country’s major construction firms, The Consulting Association and other agencies.  Operation Herne finds this allegation is Proven

Para. 13.1.2 – Special Branches throughout the UK had direct contact with the Economic League, public authorities, private industry and trade unions.’

At the start of the opening statements, Counsel for the Inquiry stated that:

“The reporting of undercover officers refers to trade unions and to the trade union activities of some trade union members. There are concerns about why such information was recorded and what it was used for; in particular, whether it was passed to those who blacklisted workers”.

This Inquiry has already disclosed evidence that shows that from its very inception, spying on left-wing trade union activists was a central part of the Special Demonstration Squad’s (SDS) activities. The SDS annual report from 1972 alone records intelligence being gathered in relation to the miners’ strike and building workers strike of that year.

The intelligence gathered by SDS officers spying on union activists was added to Special Branch registry files, which acted as a central database for political activists targeted by Special Branch. Once information about an individual was placed on the registry files, it became available for anyone within Special Branch and the security services to access.

Lord Hendy has already highlighted to this Inquiry a disclosed report from a conference in the 1970s that clearly shows that Special Branch held specific files on trade unions; TGWU, AEUW, ASTMS, APEX, NALGO, CPSA, NUT. Plus the Shrewsbury Pickets, Pentonville 5, the Con Mech & Bryant Colour Works disputes and the Liaison Committee for the Defence of Trade Unions.

Only two years after the formation of the SDS, the Special Branch Industrial Unit was established “with the aim of monitoring trade unionists from teaching to the docks” and developing a network of well-placed contacts in industry. These included directors of multinational companies and, according to Special Branch officers interviewed for the BBC TV series True Spies, General Secretaries of TUC affiliated trade unions. These police informants had a two-way sharing of information with officers from the Special Branch Industrial Unit. This Inquiry will find that intelligence gathered by both undercover and uniformed officers, was available to the Industrial Unit and was passed onto both major employers and blacklisting organisations.

A number of SDS officers worked for the Special Branch Industrial Unit, either before or after their undercover deployment, hardly surprising given the considerable degree of overlap between the work of the two units. One such officer was HN336, who during evidence yesterdaystated that Chief Superintendent Herbert Guy Lawrenson (known as Bert), head of C squad within the Met Police Special Branch at the time of the formation of the SDS,went to work for the Economic League.

Somewhat astonishingly, Operation Herne makes no mention of Chief Superintendent Lawrenson’s role in the Economic League. But according to Herne, the Special Branch Industrial Unit had a dedicated officer who was their official liaison officer with the Economic League. Blacklisted workers are particularly interested in the relationship between officers from the Special Branch Industrial Unit and Bert Lawrenson (who in many cases will have trained them and been their former boss).We expect this inquiry to fully investigate it.

In addition to the Special Branch registry files, police intelligence about political activists was also analysed and collated on the National Domestic Extremism Database, originally compiled by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), another undercover police unit central to this inquiry. The database holds information on thousands of British citizens that the state considers to be domestic extremists, many of whom have committed no crime whatsoever. Another police unit responsible for collating the Domestic Extremism Database was the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU). NETCU’s former head, Superintendent Steve Pearl, explained in an interview to the Daily Telegraph that the unit was set up to: “take over MI5’s covert role watching groups such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, trade-union activists and left-wing journalists”

In October 2008, Detective Chief Inspector Gordon Mills from NETCU gave a PowerPoint presentation to one of the secret Consulting Association meetings. Eight senior managers from the blacklisting companies attended. The presentation identified left wing activists as ‘emerging threats’ for which the ‘companies needed to have strong vetting procedures in place’. In a witness statement compiled for the High Court blacklisting trial Ian Kerr, the Consulting Association chief executive claims that NETCU:

‘wanted an output for their information…. I gave them the email addresses of the contacts in the construction industry and they would feed them information.’

NETCU and the Special Branch Industrial Unit are now both dissolved and absorbed into SO15 – Counter Terrorism Command. So state spying on union activists is now classified as counter-terrorism. Of course, the sharing of police intelligence across all sectors of industry has not ceased. It continues through Operation Fairway and the National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit Industrial Liaison section. Disclosing information to industry contacts which has gone on for centuries is now officially sanctioned using what are known as Information Sharing Agreements. This Inquiry will find that in 2010, the office for the National Coordinator Special Branches urged police forces across the UK to become “more proactive” in putting on Special Branch briefings, to share information with academics and contacts in business and the public sector.

When police give briefings to industry contacts about individual activists – what precisely do they think the consequences are going to be? The ongoing sharing of such information with third parties will have negative impacts not just on the employment prospects of trade union activists, but potentially on access to universities or funding streams for community based anti-racist campaigns.

I now wish to raise the issue of specific incidents of political police units spying on unions relevant to the Blacklist Support Group and the eight individual core participants in the union strand. I will concentrate on a small group of union activists who all appear on the blacklist, and for over a decade from the early 1990s until the mid 2000s, were spied on by three separate SDS officers: Peter Francis, Mark Jenner and Carlo Neri.

 This Inquiry will find that Mark Jenner, an undercover police officer from the Special Demonstration Squad infiltrated the construction workers’ union UCATT using the false name Mark Cassidy. Claiming to be a joiner, he attended Hackney Branch of UCATT, his union subscriptions were paid by a bank account set up by Special Branch. During his deployment he attended numerous union picketlines, protests, meetings and conferences. After each meeting pages of handwritten notes were typed up, presumably to be used as intelligence to be fed back to Special Branch.

Jenner also infiltrated a campaign group called the Colin Roach Centre, which amongst other activities was the home of the Hackney Trade Union Resource Centre. Numerous union branches and union related campaigns used its premises, including two small union groups infiltrated by Mark Jenner: the Building Workers Safety Campaign and the Brian Higgins Defence Campaign. The undercover police officer actually chaired some of the meetings and used his position to contact union branch secretaries from UCATT, UNISON, Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU), National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), Electrical and Plumbing Industries Union (EPIU), National Union of Teachers (NUT) and Civil and Public Services Association (CPSA). He also wrote letters to the well-respected safety body, London Hazards Centre and Inquest, the charity that supports those campaigning over deaths in police custody. Brian Higgins and John Jones, both core participants, were leading members of the groups Jenner infiltrated and both have entries on their blacklist files relating to those campaigns and the Colin Roach Centre.

Jenner also attended events organised by the London Joint Sites Committee, which brought together union activists to fightback on issues such as pay cuts, safety, and victimisation of union reps. I personally remember Jenner being particularly disruptive at meetings we both attended in Conway Hall. While spying on picket lines over unpaid wages at Waterloo, Jenner also came into contact and spied on other core participants; Frank Smith a blacklisted bricklayer, UCATT shop steward and Branch Secretary; and Steve Hedley, currently Senior Assistant General Secretary of the RMT rail union. In the late 1990s, Hedley was part of a union delegation to Northern Ireland as part of the peace process organised by the Hackney Trade Union Resource Centre and the Colin Roach Centre. Jenner was also part of that delegation and stayed at Hedley’s family home during the trip.

Union activism is not only about terms and conditions. It is multifaceted and all individual Core Participants in the union strand are also anti-racist and anti-fascist activists. Actively opposing fascism is viewed as something to be proud of by the trade union mo At the time of Peter Francis’ and Mark Jenner’s deployment, British National Party thugs and the fascist paramilitary group Combat 18 were terrorising communities, no doubt contributing to the rise of appalling racist murders such as those of Stephen Lawrence and Ricky Reel. Fascists also planted bombs in Brixton, Soho and Tower Hamlets. They vandalised union offices, including the office at the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, where computers were destroyed and swastikas daubed on the walls.

Unsurprisingly, activists from construction unions were often asked to provide stewarding to defend labour movement events from fascist violence, especially during election campaigns. One loose network of union activists who helped steward events, myself included, was known for a short period of time as the ‘Away Team’.  Peter Francis, Mark Jenner and Carlo Neri all spied on us.

For the record: we accuse Mark Jenner, and through him the British state, of interfering with the internal democratic processes of an independent trade union. They did this by covertly joining the union UCATT, by actively participating in debates and voting at union meetings on policy motions sent to the national conference and to the Regional Council; by distributing literature favouring a particular candidate during Executive Council elections; by publicly calling for the sacking of an elected union convenor; and by being particularly antagonistic at meetings thus creating divisions within the union. This is in direct contravention of international law signed and ratified by the United Kingdom, specifically: International Labour Organisation Convention 87 and the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 11. We expect the Inquiry to fully investigate the allegation.

Mark Jenner also used his skill of deceit to groom ‘Alison’, an activist for the National Union of Teachers, into having a five year co-habiting relationship during his deployment. The misogynist abuse of women activists is one of the most disgraceful human rights violations of the whole spycops scandal. Alison is of course a core participant.

When Jenner’s deployment was coming to an end, another undercover SDS officer, using the cover name Carlo Neri was sent to spy on the same group of activists.

The Inquiry will hear how, on more than one occasion, Neri incited Core Participants Frank Smith, Dan Gilman and Joe Batty to fire bomb a charity shop in North London. Joe Batty was a TGWU union steward who has been denied Core Participant status. The undercover officer claimed the shop was run by Roberto Fiore, the leader of the Italian fascist Forza Nuova Party. Fiore fled Italy after being wanted by Italian police in connection with the terrorist bombing of Bologna railway station in 1980 that killed 85 innocent people.

For the record: we accuse Carlo Neri of being an agent provocateur, of deliberately attempting to entrap union members by inciting them to commit arson. Again for the record: the spied upon activists wanted nothing to do with the proposed attack: they are trade union and anti-fascist activists, not terrorists.

Carlo Neri also deceived a Transport and General Workers Union rep from a homelessness charity, Donna McLean, into a relationship. Donna McLean is of course a Core Participant.

At one point during this deployment, Neri orchestrated a split from Donna McLean and moved in with Steve Hedley as a lodger. In October 2004, Steve Hedley was victimised and sacked from the Channel Tunnel Rail Link project, a dismissal and dispute that appears on his blacklist file. Neri turned up on the picket line, spying on union members showing solidarity with Hedley.

There is a restriction order and a ruling stopping me from revealing the real name of Carlo Neri within this I have given an assurance that I will not break the restriction order by using his real name and therefore I won’t. However, I can say that I have known Carlo Neri’s real name for over five years, having worked with other activists and the Undercover Research Group to uncover it. When my book was published in 2016, in respect to his family, we took the decision not to use his real name. But Carlo’s real name has now been fully in the public domain for over 18 months.

Last week I heard Rajiv Menon QC being told he would be silenced for asking a question that the chair of the inquiry did not approve of. I am not a Queen’s Counsel, I am a blacklisted construction worker trying to get the truth of how me and my friends have been treated by the state.  I will not be silenced.

Four weeks ago, I wrote an article for Tribune magazine opposing the Covert Human Intelligence Source (Criminal Conduct) Bill currently going through parliament. The proposed legislation will give all future undercover officers impunity from prosecution for any crime committed while on deployment including murder, torture and rape. To highlight the dangers of this horrific Bill, I cited the incitement to commit arson and Carlo Neri’s real surname was published. Neither myself, nor Tribune magazine have breached the restriction order.

But inside this public inquiry, the very body set up by parliament to get to the ‘truth’, no one is allowed to mention Neri’s real name. On Sunday night I watched the BBC adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials on TV. And being in this inquiry feels like stepping into an alternate universe; the one where the Magisterium holds onto power by clinging to an outdated view of the world, covering up the truth and deciding what people can and can’t know.

This Inquiry will find that the SDS did not just spy on trade unionists; the intelligence it gathered was passed onto employers and found its way onto the blacklist.

One of the most glaring examples so far uncovered comes from the undercover SDS officer Peter Francis, who was deployed in the early 1990s. While undercover, Peter Francis opened the Special Branch registry file on Frank Smith which included entries about his anti-racist role in the Away Team and his relationship with an American woman, Lisa Teuscher. This inquiry will find that Frank Smith’s Consulting Association blacklist file includes an entry which reads:

“Under constant watch officially and seen as politically dangerous”

Peter Francis claims this almost mirrors the wording of information that he used when he opened the Special Branch file on the blacklisted bricklayer. How could the blacklist possibly know that Frank Smith was being spied on by the state, unless that information had been passed on by the police or the security services?

Francis also gathered intelligence on Lisa Teuscher, primarily because of her role in the anti-racist campaign group Youth Against Racism in Europe. He was also specifically tasked by the Home Office to find evidence that could be used in relation to her immigration status, including a previous marriage. Following the SDS intervention, the Home Office tried to deport Ms Teuscher by refusing her indefinite leave to remain. Her passport was held for seven years, while she appealed the decision. Prevented from meeting her family, Ms Teuscher describes this period as ‘traumatic’. Eventually Ms Teuscher won her appeal but after seven years of constant stress, she was physically and mentally exhausted and eventually returned to the US, where she has now settled.

Despite never having worked in the construction industry, the Consulting Association blacklist also held information about Lisa Teuscher, including that she was “the girlfriend of Frank Smith” and that she was “involved in several marriages of convenience”. This information was placed on her blacklist file at the time that she was involved in her battle with the Home Office and is similar to the information that Peter Francis added to her Special Branch file.

No one is suggesting that Peter Francis personally provided the intelligence gathered during his undercover deployment to the blacklist. That was not his job. It was more senior officers from the Special Branch Industrial Unit or NETCU who were tasked with sharing information with “industry contacts”.

Another glaring example of where information from Special Branch registry files appears on the blacklist relates to an incident in November 1999. Every Remembrance Day, the National Front lay a wreath at the Cenotaph. In November 1999, Frank Smith, Dan Gilman and Steve Hedley participated in a counter-demonstration. Operation Herne has confirmed that the three core participants were observed by police on the day and that intelligence about their participation at the Cenotaph was added to Special Branch files. Within a few days, the same information appears on the blacklist files of the three activists, along with information that they were members of the Away Team.

All the information cited above was supplied by the blacklisting construction firm, Costain. This inquiry will find that two senior industrial relations managers for Costain both had close relationships with Special Branch; Dudley Barrett (now retired) and Gayle Burton (now a senior executive at the Jockey Club).

The only plausible explanation for how such very specific information about the Cenotaph incident and the Away Team appeared on the blacklist is that Special Branch gave it to a Costain manager. Any other explanation suggested by the police is laughable.

If the purpose of this police spying operation was genuinely to detect serious criminality or public disorder, why were none of us ever charged or prosecuted with a serious criminal offence? The waste of taxpayers money, the personal intrusion, the human rights abuse, the collusion with an illegal blacklist cannot possibly be justified based on preventing crime. It is clear that the purpose of the British political police units is not to stop crime, they exist to keep activists from justice campaigns, political groups and trade unions under surveillance. This is political policing – end of.

BSG accuse both the Special Branch Industrial Unit and NETCU of routinely sharing information reciprocally with senior business executives on both a formal and informal basis. It is through these officially sanctioned communication channels that intelligence gathered by undercover and uniformed officers appears on blacklist files. The ideological reasoning and purpose of both the state and corporate spying operations are almost identical; the national interest and the vested interests of big business are incorrectly viewed as one and the same. That intelligence about left wing activists was shared between the UK political police units and major corporations is hardly surprising.

Despite the designated lawyers representing some of the undercover officers claiming that the “police are neutral”, the state is never neutral in a major dispute between big business and trade unions.

Police collusion in blacklisting is not an aberration or the actions of a rogue unit, it is standard operating procedures for the UK’s political police. What the core participants in the union strand want from this inquiry, is for the police to reveal the detail of how state collusion with employers works. This Public Inquiry is not a trial. We expect a narrative verdict that explains not only the mechanics, but the ideological justification by senior police officers and politicians for such actions.

The Core Participants and the BSG are not the only union members that the undercover police spied on. There are seven million union members in the UK. Even today, trade unions remain the largest voluntary organisations in civil society, organising collectively for equality, for safety, for fair wages. Seven million members of the public, want to know if their meetings and conferences were infiltrated by undercover police officers? If police groomed female activists in their unions? If the state provided information about their union reps to employers?

The police lawyers will repeat the mantra that unions were not the target of the undercover surveillance and what we suffered was “collateral intrusion” or the new phrase, that we were “the subject of peripheral reporting”. But trade unionism isn’t a business relationship: union members are not customers. Union members are the union. There is a saying in the union movement: an injury to one, is an injury to all. Union members support each other irrespective of race, sex, class or political leanings. This is called solidarity. If undercover police sat in on our meetings or turned up on our picket lines to gather intelligence about union members – they were spying on trade unions. If the political police units kept a secret database with files on specific unions and activists – they were spying on trade unions. Claiming anything else is just smoke and mirrors.

It is time for the police to come clean and name names. Yes, we want the names of the undercover officers who spied on trade unionists to be released. Yes, we want the names of the trade unions and all of the 1000 political groups that were spied on by the spycops to be released. But we also want much more than that.

It is in the public interest and part of the terms of reference for this public inquiry to know what was done with the intelligence gathered by undercover sources. We want to know which other union members lost their jobs or were denied work because of information supplied by the police to industry. We are calling on the Inquiry to force the police to publish the names of Special Branch Industrial Unit’s ‘key industry contacts’ that both supplied and received information. We want the directors and the companies that were supplied with information about union activists to be named. And from the point of view of the Blacklist Support Group, if any trade union officials were amongst the ‘key industry contacts’ supplying information to the police, we call for them to be named as well.

In construction we have found their blacklist, but we are not the only one. For decades, the Not Required Back system has blacklisted workers on oil and gas platforms who complain about safety. The BBC kept a Staff Transfer Register (of those vetted by MI5), the Subversion in Public Life database run by the security services was used to blacklist civil servants, and the retail sector’s National Staff Dismissal Register blacklist was actually funded by a £1million grant the Home Office.

In the 2002 BBC TV documentary series True Spies, SDS officers explained that Fords Halewood factory in Liverpool provided Special Branch with a list of all job applicants to vet. One of the officers stated that:

“It was very, very important that trade unions were monitored… We were expected to check these lists. You call it blacklisting and that’s what it is. In any war there are always going to be casualties”.

Does the secret state believe it is at war with trade unions? Are we still viewed as the enemy within?

We demand to know whether intelligence gathered by undercover police was supplied to any of these blacklists or the companies that subscribed to them. We believe that some form of blacklisting occurs in virtually every sector of the UK economy, but mostly remains hidden – as does the role of the police. For this Inquiry to have any credibility, it needs to fully investigate our concerns.

Another aspect of political policing the BSG is concerned about, is what happened to police and MI5 spies and their supervisors after they stopped working for the state? I have already mentioned Bert Lawrenson leaving Special branch to work for the Economic League. But he is not the only one: Assistant Chief Constable Anton Setchell, was the officer in charge of the UK police domestic extremism machinery between 2004 and 2010, is currently head of global security at Laing O’Rourke – one of the blacklisting construction companies. Superintendent Steve Pearl, who ran NETCU, is now a non-executive director at Agenda Security Services, Barrie Gane, the former deputy head of MI6 sits on the Board of Threat Response International: both companies spy on activists for corporate clients.

Control Risks, another private security firms that employs former state spies had a £59,000 contract with Crossrail to keep union activists under surveillance. Those spied on included Frank Morris, the first union rep on the publicly funded project, who was sacked within a few days of being elected and has suffered long periods of unemployment ever since due to blacklisting. Are the ex-police spies using their relationships with former colleagues to garner information about campaigners and union activists?

Given the mass privatisation over the past four decades, has there been a blurring of the lines between state and corporate spying? We believe it is essential that this Inquiry investigates whether any state spying functions formerly carried out by the undercover police units or MI5 have been outsourced to private companies. Which companies have been given contracts? How much taxpayers’ money have they been given? If state spying is now privatised what is the political oversight? Are these privatised spies exempt from FOI Act and public scrutiny?

 Unfortunately, we are extremely sceptical that the Inquiry will be a success.

Everything we know so far about the spycops scandal in relation to trade unions and blacklisting is because activists have uncovered it. Not because those in authority have willingly admitted or disclosed the evidence of their wrong doing, but because it has been unearthed by activists, investigative journalists, campaigning lawyers, MPs and trade unions. One of the core-participants in the union strand is Steve Acheson, an electrician who stood on a picketline in Manchester for over three years to highlight the blacklist, which was finally exposed when a whistleblower came forward and gave evidence at an employment tribunal. Steve has one of the largest blacklist files in the country and was almost unemployable for nearly a decade, nearly losing his home. It is people like Steve who have helped uncover the truth – not the police.

When the BSG first complained about police involvement in blacklisting in 2012, the Metropolitan Police refused to even accept the complaint. Only after an appeal by Imran Khan and Partners was it passed onto the Independent Police Complaints Commission, who quickly confirmed that:

“it is likely that all Special Branches were involved in providing information about prospective employees”

This was immediately disputed by Chief Constable Mick Creedon, who claimed there was no such evidence. We now know this to be simply untrue. At every step, the police have obstructed our fight for justice and we fear that the police will continue to deliberately obstruct the work of this Inquiry.

By way of example, NETCU was deliberately set up under the auspices of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), who are now known as the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC). The effect of this, was that although being funded directly by the Home Office and all of its staff were serving police officers, NETCU was outside the scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act.

The police officers working for NETCU complied reports, exchanged correspondence, and kept minutes of internal meetings. All requests for the documents relating to the Consulting Association meeting to be disclosed have been refused by the police, instead they claim that all NETCU records were destroyed and there was no transfer or copying of any information.

On behalf of the BSG I will go out on a limb and state for the public record that this is a blatant lie. Are we and the public seriously to believe that after seven years, not one single document produced by NETCU was worthy of transfer to the Met Police or has been accessed by the police since?

Ask the families of football supporters who were unlawfully killed at Hillsborough or miners falsely arrested at Orgreave or the Birmingham 6 whether the police The undercover officers in the spycops units were trained to lie – this is not ‘name-calling’ as the lawyer for the MPS stated – it is a fact. It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to suggest that some ex-police officers will lie when questioned by this Inquiry. This Inquiry has a choice, either it accepts everything it is told by the police as the truth, or it accepts that police officers, and especially the UK’s political policing units, have lied and do lie, and therefore the Inquiry needs to be sceptical about accepting their statements at face value.

Unfortunately, from what we have seen so far, the Inquiry has repeatedly given the benefit of the doubt to the police. An incidence of this is that despite admitting that spying on union militants is a central role of SDS activity, the police claim that in 40 years of undercover deployments, only one police officer actually joined a trade union.

I am not a lawyer, but I imagine that when barristers meet at legal events and social functions they ask each other what Chambers they are at? In the labour movement, they ask each other what union they belong to. Any SDS officer targeting union activists on an extended deployment who was not a member of a union would stand out like a sore thumb. Yet to date, the police claim that in over 40 years, only one undercover officer ever joined a trade union? Are we seriously meant to believe this? Yet when we met the Inquiry team in 2018, this is what they were told by the Chair.

Giving the police the benefit of the doubt is illustrated in their continued refusal to provide Core Participants with copies of their own police files. None of us would be Core Participants if the police had not already accepted that we had been kept under surveillance. I have applied for my police file, plus files relating to the Blacklist Support Group. On both occasions, the police response was that they can ‘neither confirm nor deny’ whether the police hold any files on me, citing national security and the potential to interfere with ongoing criminal investigations as the reason. So much for police transparency.

In July 2018, the Blacklist Support Group held a meeting with the Inquiry team, where we specifically requested that the police files for Brian Higgins and John Jones be released. This was because the two core participants were both severely ill and in their seventies. We were given assurances by the Chair of the Inquiry that everything possible would be done to make this disclosure happen. More than two years later, the files have still not been released. Brian Higgins passed away in June 2019, without ever being able to see the extent of the state spying on him. What possible national security reason can there be for denying a dying man access to his police file from the 1990s? I am in close contact with Brian’s family and I am putting it mildly by saying that the family are furious by the way they have been treated by the police and by this Inquiry. This Inquiry should be aware of the responsibility it owes to those who have not survived the long years of waiting for the truth.

In relation to Tranche 1 of this inquiry which starts in 1968, the BSG represents construction union activists with blacklist files that go back as far as the early 1960s. Yet, rather than seeing the full evidence bundle, the only disclosure we have seen so far are heavily redacted versions of Operation Herne and the SDS Annual Reports from 1968-1975.

If these reports are going to be used as core evidence in the Inquiry, I wish to make the following Firstly, the Herne Report. What is so striking is the use of language. The police repeatedly use terminology such as ‘alleged victimisation’ and ‘supposed blacklisting’ in relation to the core participants in the union strand. This is despite the fact that the investigating officers had full access to the Consulting Association blacklist, parliament changed the law because of the scandal and the firms had made a public apology in the High Court. The Herne Report is not a transparent, no-stone-unturned investigation seeking the truth: it is the police preparing their defence for this inquiry.

There are 74 Appendices in Operation Herne – including witness statements with the former Special Branch contact with the Economic League – none of which have been disclosed to BSG.

It would however be churlish of me not to thank the officers compiling the Herne Report for their glowing review of the book written by myself and the investigative journalist Phil Chamberlain, which is described as, “the most comprehensive collection of material on the subject”. I assure them we will use that quote in our future marketing. Their assessment also demonstrates the need for accounts from activists who have uncovered the truth, to be treated with as much (if not more) validity as witness statements from the officers.

Secondly, in relation to the SDS Annual Reports. These remind me of the Annual Reports that multinational companies involved in blacklisting provide to shareholders at their AGMs. What is noticeable, is while such annual reports identify areas in the globe where the companies operate and may even mention corporate ethics, they always omit any mention of the number of fatalities on their building projects or prosecutions for breaches of safety laws. Or ongoing investigations for human rights violations. Not once have I seen any mention of the employers’ role in blacklisting in their annual reports. This is hardly surprising, as the reports are a PR documents written by senior executives with a vested interest in securing a continued funding stream. The SDS Annual Reports fulfil the exact same purpose.

Yet even these heavily redacted and sanitised documents raise concerns that there are other documents that may be of relevance to the BSG. One example is the explicit mention of the Shrewsbury Two Defence campaign which set up by rank and file members of the construction unions to support Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson was an explicit target of the SDS. The two union activists were imprisoned in a notorious miscarriage of justice involving collusion between the security services and major construction firms. Nearly 50 years after the event, successive Home Secretaries have refused to release the official papers into the Shrewsbury Pickets, citing national security. This shouts of an establishment cover up.

One of the leading members of the Shrewsbury Two Defence campaign was Mick Abbott, a scaffolder whose life was blighted for four decades due to blacklisting. His blacklist file starts in 1964, with multiple entries about his role in the Shrewsbury campaign. If SDS officers had infiltrated the campaign, it is implausible that Mick Abbott, and other blacklisted union activists that helped run the Shrewsbury Two Defence campaign, would not have been under surveillance. Sadly, Mick Abbott passed away in 2014, so he will never know if the police were spying on him or supplied information to employers about him.

SDS annual reports also refer to the 1972 national building workers strike as being a central area of concern. If the SDS was keeping union activists under surveillance during the 1972 strike, it is again implausible that at least some of the blacklisted workers from that period were not the targets of surveillance, as they were the very activists leading the dispute. Yet despite making repeated applications to the inquiry, the BSG has been denied permission to view all the evidence from Tranche 1 and our lawyers are unable to even suggest questions to be asked of the witnesses. This does not in any way speak of a transparent, fact-finding and truth-seeking Inquiry.

In fact, rather than being transparent and accessible, the Inquiry has set up as many barriers as possible to prevent core participants, the public and the media from being able to view or listen to proceedings. Oral evidence is only possible to be viewed by pre-registering. Those lucky enough to be selected must travel to London during a lockdown to sit in a hotel room and watch the proceedings on a TV screen. Otherwise, the only way to view the evidence is via a transcript feed, which is like being transported back to the 1980s to watch the Inquiry on Ceefax. This just doesn’t work. Journalists can’t check quotes, which makes it impossible to post reports in time for the TV and radio news.

Dominic Casciani, the BBC Home Affairs correspondent leading for the state broadcaster has tweeted: “it is virtually unusable for reporters trying to follow it remotely. The words are appearing via a fast scrolling video feed that can’t be paused or rewound… This basically means, from a practical perspective as a working reporter, that a public inquiry becomes largely impossible to report”

At the start of each day, the chair states that “members of the public, are entitled to hear the same public evidence as I will hear and to reach your own conclusions about it.” This is patently not true. But easily resolvable if the inquiry live streamed all evidence, exactly as the Grenfell public inquiry is doing. Unfortunately, there seems little chance of this, and we seem to be watching a good old fashioned establishment cover up take place before our eyes.

In conclusion, the treatment of blacklisted workers by the British legal system does not make us optimistic. The multinational corporations that ruined so many lives were literally able to buy themselves out of a High Court trial involving over 700 claimants. That is not justice. Blacklisted workers do not expect the state investigating itself to provide ‘justice’.

Our participation in this inquiry is based on the slim hope that at least some evidence of the anti-union bias, institutional racism and institutional sexism of the British state spying machinery will be exposed to public scrutiny. We are here to shake the tree and see what falls out. Keeping this dark underbelly of anti-democratic political policing hidden is against the public interest – it only helps the perpetrators of wrong doing – not the survivors or the British public.

The police can claim all they like that they were protecting democracy. But by spying on trade union members and colluding with our blacklisting, the UK’s political policing units are actually protecting big business and capitalism. And for the avoidance of all doubt: capitalism and democracy are not the same thing.

Thank you, and solidarity with all the non-state Core Participants.


Blacklist Support Group: Coronavirus demands on the construction industry

Blacklist Support Group supports 2 linked demands for the construction sector:

  • #ShutTheSites – Close all non-essential building sites to keep workers and their families safe
  • #PAYEveryworker – Ensure every worker gets paid to ensure their families are not put into destitution

Blame greedy bosses, clients and the government NOT the workers

The vast majority of construction workers are decent hardworking people. None of them want to put their own or their family members’ lives at risk by working in a situation where coronavirus infection is likely. Yet despite the apparent lockdown, photographs of packed building sites have been all over the media for days. When construction workers go to work, they share minibuses, travel on packed tubes, eat in crowded canteens, go up in full hoists, use palm print entry systems and live in barrack style accommodation on site. Construction is a dirty dangerous place at the best of times with notoriously poor welfare facilities, where the very process requires people to work in close proximity. Coronavirus will spread like wildfire in these circumstances.

Blame for this giant threat to public health lies with the greedy major contractors and clients continuing to enforce penalty clauses for delays; forcing building workers to come into work. Blame also lies with the government for not ordering all non-essential construction work to close. Ministers make speeches from lecterns emblazoned with the slogan ‘Stay Home Save Lives’ but building workers are still expected to go to work. There appears to have been orchestrated lobbying by the large contractors who are also major financial donors to the Tory Party. Its all about the money.

A culture of fear

There are also widespread reports of construction workers being sacked or told not to return to site if they complain or take the decision to leave unsafe sites. Construction News even reported workers being worried about blacklisting and being told to “F*ck Off, if you don’t like it”. One electrician in central London was sacked for gross-misconduct for posting a tweet about lack of social distancing.

As blacklisted building workers, we know from personal experience that the spectre of blacklisting is still very real in the construction industry. Big firms claim it’s a thing of the past but everyone knows it’s still going on. If safety reps get sacked, it’s no surprise that other workers keep their heads down. It’s a climate of fear that’s putting public health at risk.

Coronavirus Risk Assessment for the construction industry would highlight:

  • Repeated prosecutions for breaches of H&S laws
  • Blacklisting of safety reps by major contractors
  • Workers being sacked where they complain abut safety
  • Highest workplace fatality rates of any sector
  • Intrinsically dirty work involving heavy lifting, often as a team
  • Working in close proximity in confined spaces, hoists, scaffolds and trenches
  • Often non-existent welfare facilities
  • Almost universal bogus ‘self-employment’ where workers won’t be paid if they don’t come in

Using the Law

Every worker should stay safe and put their own and family member’s safety above the profits of their employer. Blacklist Support Group urge all concerned workers in non-essential workplaces to talk to your fellow workers and collectively approach the boss to keep staff safe. If management refuse to positively respond to reasonable requests, then legislation provides protection to employees who move themselves from an unsafe workplace.

Section 44 (1) of the Employment Rights Act 1996, specifically states:

An employee has the right not to be subjected to any detriment by any act, or any deliberate failure to act, by his employer done on the ground that:

(d)in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent and which he could not reasonably have been expected to avert, he left (or proposed to leave) or (while the danger persisted) refused to return to his place of work or any dangerous part of his place of work, or

(e)in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent, he took (or proposed to take) appropriate steps to protect himself or other persons from the danger.

Using this health and safety law, coronavirus walkouts have already been organised in construction, factories, distribution depots, Royal Mail. In the US walkouts by autoworkers have closed car plants and in Italy and Switzerland the unions led strikes to close down non-essential workplaces. Construction workers do not want to be working, with the potential of brining the virus back home to their loved ones. The mood of the industry and the whole nation is to shut non-essential building sites.

Any union officials or safety reps who are negotiating with managers about how to keep non-essential workplaces open should first and foremost talk to their members about what they actually want to happen. Then reconsider whether continuing production is likely to ensure the safety of workers and their families, or primarily benefit the company financially. Any union perceived by the workers as siding with management to keep non-essential businesses open, may suffer a backlash if the overwhelming mood of the workforce is to stay safe at home.

‘Self-Employed’ Workers

However agency workers and anyone classified as self-employed are not covered by this legal protection. Employment law is stacked in favor of the employers. So rather than merely quoting the law, groups of workers should join a union and approach their boss collectively. This will increase the likelihood of success and decrease the chance of any victimization.

The majority of construction workers are also classified as self-employed, which means that if they decide to self-isolate they will not be paid by the firm they’re actually working for. If they go off sick, they won’t get sick pay. This allows the big firms to extert pressure on building workers who need money to put food on the table.

The government scheme for self-employed workers is a joke. No one gets a penny until June. How are people supposed to pay their bills? People have every right to keep a roof over their heads.The government position is changing by the day and concerted pressure can bring about further changes. Rather than the hopeless self-employed scheme or Universal Credit of £95 a week, it would be more useful if the government made universal income payments of around £1000 to everyone in the country (as has happened in Hong Kong).  No landlord or bank has a God given right to make a profit: the law of the land grants them that right, and the government can suspend that right. If the government suspended all rent, mortgage and interest payments for the next 3 months no one would be in fear of losing their home (as has happened in Italy).

Below is a short selection of the media coverage relating to the construction industry:

Dan Dobson on Radio 5 Live: (starts at 21:29hrs)

Dan Dobson – Tribune article:

Dave Smith: Morning Star article:

Dave Smith at Coronavirus Support Group for Workers virtual meeting:

Construction News:

Union News:


Construction donations to Tory Party:

Le Monde on Hinckley Point

UNITE Appeal for evidence:

Punk Poet Steve White has even given the hashtag #ShutTheSites its own theme tune:

Stay Safe & Keep the Faith


Blacklist Support Group




Newly released report proves police collusion with blacklisting

Blacklist Support Group news release

On Wednesday 6 March 2019, the 10th Anniversary of the building industry blacklist being exposed, a newly released police report proves that the police shared information with the blacklist over decades.

Major construction firms such as Sir Robert McAlpine, Carillion and Balfour Beatty funded the now notorious Consulting Association and the Economic League to spy on and deny work to union members who raised concerns about safety.

The Creedon Report into Operation Reuben, the internal police investigation into blacklisting was disclosed by the Metropolitan Police to lawyers representing the Blacklist Support Group, because of there core participant status in the public inquiry into undercover policing.

The key findings of the 70 page report include admissions that:

  •  “Police, including Special Branches and the Security Services supplied information to the blacklist funded by the country’s major construction firms, The Consulting Association”  (para 4.2)
  • “Special Branches throughout the UK had direct contact with the Economic League” (para 13.1.2)
  • The Metropolitan Police Special Branch Industrial Unit spied on union members “from teaching to the docks, attending conferences, and protests personally, and also developing well placed confidential contacts” (para 6.11)
  • Undercover police officer Mark Jenner, who infiltrated the construction union UCATT gathered intelligence on “over 300 individuals”  (para 11.8.3)
  • Another police unit, the National Extremism and Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU) gave a PowerPoint presentation to a meeting of the Consulting Association (11.6.6)
  • Police sharing information with big business and other bodies about prospective employees continues to this day through the Industrial Liaison Section within the National Domestic Extremism Unit (para 11.1.17)

Roy Bentham, joint secretary of Blacklist Support Group, commented:  “The police are supposed to uphold law and order, not spy on perfectly democratic organisations such as trade unions. Blacklisting is a national scandal and confirmation that the police colluded with this shameful and unlawful activity is beyond the pale.

“Justice demands a full stand alone public inquiry into this disgraceful human rights conspiracy between big business and the UK’s political police.”

Imran Khan QC, lawyer for the Blacklist Support Group at the undercover policing public inquiry, commented: “This report is official confirmation of a process which many workers in the construction industry knew or suspected was going on for a long time.

“Many thousands of  lives were ruined as a result of what can only be described as deplorable conduct on the part of the police. The UCPI has duty to now dig even deeper to discover the true extent of what the police did and hold them to account for their actions.”

  •  Blacklist Support Group 10th anniversary parliamentary meeting, 5pm Wednesday 6 March 2019, Committee Room 10, Houses of Parliament

Confirmed speakers:

  • John McDonnell MP
  • Imran Khan QC
  • Gail Cartmail AGS Unite the union
  • ‘Alison’ ex-partner of undercover police officer Mark Jenner
  • Chris Stephens MP
  • John Hendy QC

Unite pledges to drag key blacklisting boss Cullum McAlpine before the courts

A construction boss who played a pivotal role in orchestrating a blacklisting scandal that targeted union safety activists will face the courts, the union Unite has pledged.

The union said it “is closing in” on Cullum McAlpine who it wants to account for his actions in court. Unite is taking fresh legal action on behalf of workers who were blacklisted by the Consulting Association. Most of the major construction companies in the UK used its services.

Unlike the previous court case which concluded in 2016, Unite says it will be seeking to ensure Cullum McAlpine, the original chair of the Consulting Association and a director of UK construction giant Sir Robert McAlpine, is required to give evidence in court under oath. The trial is set to begin on 4 June and could last for six weeks.

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “Unite is totally committed to ensuring that the key individuals behind blacklisting workers and ruining their lives as a result are required to account for their crimes in the public arena of a court.”

He added: “This is the minimum that the affected workers deserve. They need to see those responsible in the dock and finally forced to account for their actions. The forthcoming court case will finally ensure this will happen.”

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “There remain employers in construction and other industries who continue to believe it is somehow acceptable to engage in the disgusting and deceitful practice of blacklisting, to ruin people’s lives.

“We are seeing blacklisting ‘outsourced’ to labour suppliers at the beck and call of large firms and acting as unaccountable instigators of union busting. That’s why Unite is still fighting for justice for those who were previously affected but is also fighting to stamp out contemporary blacklisting.”

Blacklisting dispute looms at Crossrail

The Crossrail project could face industrial action over the firing of a well-regarded union safety activist. The looming dispute centres around Birmingham electrician Martin Overy, a former Unite safety rep who was dismissed last week only five hours after signing his contract with the electrical contractor Site Operative Solutions Limited (SOS) at Paddington station.

Overy features on the notorious Consulting Association blacklist and in 2016 was awarded damages in the major blacklisting trial at the High Court which saw eight construction giants agree a massive compensation payout.  However, the skilled electrician reports that he has struggled to find and stay in employment.

Paddington station is under the control of the Swedish multinational Skanska, one of the defendants in the High Court litigation. It has publicly apologised for its role in the blacklisting scandal.

But the union-supported Blacklist Support Group (BSG) says the company has since been accused repeatedly of involvement in “contemporary ongoing blacklisting after FOI requests highlighted emails that showed union members were being kept under surveillance.”

BSG says the Crossrail project has been dogged by claims of blacklisting. A parliamentary select committee was told that Frank Morris, a UNITE shop steward, was dismissed from the project after his name appeared in a list of ‘troublemakers’.

Roy Bentham, the BSG joint secretary and a Unite executive council member commented: “In an industry with such an appalling fatality record, workers who are prepared to raise concerns about safety should be valued but instead the treatment of Martin Overy seems a blatant case of blacklisting.

“Both Crossrail and Skanska have got form on blacklisting and we’re not going to sit back and let this happen again. If Martin isn’t reinstated, rank and file industrial action is unstoppable.”

Victims praise Lush stand on the spycops scandal

Cosmetics brand Lush has been praised by campaigners for its nationwide campaign to raise awareness of the ‘spycops’ scandal, which has seen union, safety, environmental and other activists’ groups infiltrated by undercover police officers.

Displays condemning the police strategy appeared in Lush stores last week. Customers were also asked to sign a postcard urging home secretary Sajid Javid – who has criticised the Lush action – to appoint a panel of experts to the inquiry, expand its remit to Scotland and to release the personal files of victims.

The company commented: “This campaign is not about the real police work done by those front line officers who support the public every day – it is about a controversial branch of political undercover policing that ran for many years before being exposed.

“Our campaign is to highlight this small and secretive subset of undercover policing that undermines and threatens the very idea of democracy.”

Blacklist Support Group secretary Dave Smith, who was blacklisted for his union safety activities and was involved in groups infiltrated by undercover officers, praised Lush founder Mark Constantine.

“He promised to publicise the spycops issue in every store across the UK and he has lived up to his word.” Smith criticised secrecy in the ongoing Mitting inquiry into undercover policing, adding: “In its current form, the public inquiry is heading towards being a good old-fashioned Establishment whitewash.”

Union construction safety campaigns were among those infiltrated by undercover police officers.

The Metropolitan Police has admitted passing the information it obtained on construction safety campaigners to the Consulting Association, an illegal blackilsting organisation financed by major construction companies.

The association was shutdown by the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2009.

Leading politicians, lawyers, union officials and victims of the undercover policing scandal have all signed an open letter defending Lush in the wake of criticism of the company’s campaign.

The shadow chancellor John McDonnell and union leaders Len McCluskey, Matt Wrack and Manuel Cortes are among the signatories.

The former wives of undercover cops whose partners started secret relationships and sometimes second families with targeted activists under assumed names, have also backed the Lush stance.

Blacklisting Day of Action – Wednesday 6 December 2017

Protests are planned across the UK plus a lobby of MPs at Westminster. The Blacklist Support Group is urging supporters to publicise the events and where possible to attend. Bring your banners and wear your ‘Blacklisted’ t-shirts with pride.

Lobby of Westminster parliament
Assemble at Old Palace Yard, Westminster, SW1P 3JY

12pm – Rally with speakers from Unite including Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary
1pm – Photo call with MPs
2pm – Meeting with MPs in the Boothroyd room – please note, this is in Portcullis House not the Palace of Westminster
4pm finish & pre-Xmas drinks

• Full public inquiry into blacklisting
• Make blacklisting a criminal offence
• No public contracts for companies involved in blacklisting


Blacklist Support Group statement

Big Ben will now cost £61m to renovate and all that taxpayers’ money will be trousered by the kings of blacklisting Sir Robert McAlpine Limited. Despite a debate in parliament and questions being asked to the Speaker of the House of Commons, all the sympathy from MPs has come to nothing. Again. This company was at the very centre of a national scandal  that violated the human rights of over 3000 workers over a 40 year period. Sir Robert McAlpine Limited has also been a major donor to the Conservative Party for decades.

The Blacklist Support Group is sick to death of those in authority promising to take action but repeatedly delivering nada. The award of the contract to McAlpine is a two-fingered salute to all blacklisted workers and the ‘democratic values’ that Big Ben is supposed to signify.

The Big Ben announcement came at the same time that minister Margot James reiterated the government’s position that the Tory government would not ban any blacklisting company from public contracts in a letter to Glasgow MP, Chris Stephens.

Roy Bentham, BSG joint secretary and blacklisted carpenter from Liverpool, commented:

“This is a case of the nasty party rearing its ugly head once more. The fact that so many of those complicit still work within the industry tells us everything. Only a full public inquiry will get to the truth of this conspiracy that blighted the lives of so many honest hard working families.”

Blacklist Support Group: Construction giant Sir Robert McAlpine faces Big Ben backlash

The Speaker of the House of Commons and the Sir Robert McAlpine chief executive both joined the war of words about the £29m contract to refurbish Big Ben being awarded to the blacklist company. On Tuesday 5th September during a Westminster Hall debate on blacklisting MPs including Labour and SNP frontbenchers Jack Dromey and Chris Stephens joined Chuka Umunna in calling for the company that was at the very heart of The Consulting Association human rights scandal to be stripped of the Big Ben contract.

The former shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna went further on Thursday 7th by raising a ‘point of order’ on the floor of the House of Commons asking the Speaker, his “views and advice with regard to the matter of Big Ben” adding, “what message do you think it sends to the victims of this gross injustice for this House to award a contract to a firm that not only funded the Consulting Association, but provided its first chair and ​another chair?”

John Bercow replied that the question was “perfectly legitimately and reasonable” adding that although the company had been awarded the initial contract to provide scaffolding, the full contract had not yet been officially awarded to McAlpine. The Speaker of the House of Commons summed up by confirming “It is important. We are sensitive to it and we will be conscious in the days ahead of the reputational importance” and told MPs that he would make enquiries and make a further statement.

Stung by the ongoing criticism, the chief executive of Sir Robert McAlpine Limited, Paul Hamer wrote a letter to a number of newspapers claiming that “blacklisting “has no place now or in the future” at his firm and that the contractor was committed fully to “a zero-tolerance policy towards blacklisting, illegal or unfair recruitment practices”.  Adding that “I am pleased to confirm that Sir Robert McAlpine complies fully with all legislation to prevent blacklisting and is committed to fair and transparent recruitment.”

Roy Bentham, blacklisted carpenter from Liverpool and Blacklist Support Group, joint secretary responded to the McAlpine statement: “Paul Hamer might be the CEO but Cullum McAlpine owns the company and I sat behind Cullum McAlpine when he gave evidence to the select committee investigation. Upon advice from his lawyer who was sitting next to him throughout, the blacklister in chief smugly refused to answer questions put to him by MPs. The select committee report stated that they were “far from certain that all of our witnesses have told us ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’, despite many of them being under oath”. Blacklisted workers completely agree with that assessment by MPs

“Thirty years ago Sir Robert McAlpine Limited denied blacklisting people as part of the Economic League, 10 years ago they denied blacklisting people as part of The Consulting Association. And now they assure us that they’ve given up blacklisting completely. Given the company’s previous honesty on blacklisting, how could anybody possibly not believe them now?”

Unite assistant general secretary, Gail Cartmail said workers were “continuing to have their lives ruined simply for being a member of a union”.

MPs call for blacklist firm Sir Robert McAlpine to be stripped of £29m Big Ben contract

MPs lined up to call for a public inquiry into blacklisting and for Sir Robert McAlpine to be stripped of the contract to refurbish Big Ben during a 5 September parliamentary debate.

Blacklisting company Sir Robert McAlpine has already been paid £3.5m of public money to carry out the enabling works on Big Ben and are in line for another bumper £29m pay-out to complete the 4 year refurbishment project. The human rights of over 3,000 construction workers were breached when they were repeatedly denied work simply for their trade union membership. MPs questioned whether Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, as the driving force behind the blacklist, was the right contractor to be carrying out the works on Big Ben: the symbol of British democratic values.

Shadow minister for labour, Jack Dromey, said: “there has to be consequences for historic blacklisting” adding that “it is a scandal that the iconic Big Ben contract has been given to that company.!

SNP employment spokesperson Chris Stephens MP said: “Blacklisting firms have grown rich on public sector contracts” arguing that is was an ‘act of bad faith by the government that the one of the main perpetrators is being given access to public money.”

The call for Sir Robert McAlpine to be stripped of the Big Ben contract was repeated by numerous MPs including Chuka Umunna throughout the packed Westminster Hall debate.

During the debate, Chuka Umunna presented previously unreported evidence gathered from Freedom of Information Act requests that obtained emails between Crossrail and contractors on the publicly funded project that reveal continuing surveillance of union members. Umunna described the new evidence as “ugly underbelly of this sector that continues to go unaddressed” and repeated the call for a full public inquiry to finally get the truth behind this hidden human rights conspiracy.

Conservative minister Margot James flailed in her attempted defence of the government’s inaction, claiming that the “government take the issue of blacklisting very seriously” but point blankly refused to answer direct questions about the controversial Big Ben contract from Chuka Umunna, Chris Stephens and Jack Dromey.

The blacklisting conspiracy is linked to the undercover police scandal as senior officers from police units engaged in spying on so-called ‘domestic extremists’ attended and gave a PowerPoint presentation at one of the meetings of the illegal Consulting Association. Chaka Umunna said documents “strongly suggests that some of the evidence was supplied with the collusion of the police or the security services,”

Vic Williams, a blacklisted electrician from Leytonstone in east London, said: “Twelve months ago, the big construction companies gave us an apology for their involvement in blacklisting. They were only sorry for getting caught. McAlpine are coining in taxpayers money, they’re laughing at us. If MPs had any moral compass, they’d strip McAlpine of the Big Ben contract”.

Dave Smith, blacklisted construction worker and secretary of the Blacklist Support Group commented: “In all the media coverage of the Houses of parliament construction works, Big Ben was described as the symbol of British democratic values. So how can a company that breached the human rights of thousands of honest construction workers be a suitable contractor for one of the most prestigious construction projects in the world?

“The iconic bell of Big Ben might have fallen silent but blacklisted workers refuse to remain silent until those guilty of orchestrating this national scandal are forced to account for their actions at a public inquiry”.

Sir Robert McAlpine Limited is a major financial donor to the Conservative Party.