The interim report from the Scottish Affairs Select Committee says it will carry out further consultation on whether the blacklisting continues, the punishment for those involved and the compensation for those affected.
The committee has been taking evidence since last year on the scandal which was exposed when the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) raided The Consulting Association (TCA) in 2009. It unearthed a database of more than 3,200 names compiled on behalf of more than 44 firms used to weed out potential employees.
The MPs’ report says: “By the end of TCA’s life it certainly was illegal and all those involved should have know that. We consider it unethical, and to be condemned. We do not accept the argument made in self justification that blacklisting did not occur because people were not automatically excluded from employment. This is evasive wordplay.”
Building firms Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, Balfour Beatty and Skanska all gave evidence to the committee along with Ian Kerr who ran the Consulting Association. He died only weeks after his appearance where he confirmed that McAlpine’s had given £10,000 to help start the operation and been closely involved throughout; including paying his £5,000 fine when he was convicted of data protection offences.
Although the ICO was initially praised for its groundbreaking investigation there is criticism from MPs for its actions. In particular its decision to seize only 5%-10% of all the material in TCA offices and a perceived lack of effort in contacting people on the blacklist.
“We find the ICO’s justification for leaving behind the vast majority of documents at TCA’s office unconvincing,” the report says. “We accept that the ICO was concerned that the warrant which it had obtained was limited in scope, but we regret that more documents were not seized. Even if the Consulting Association is now defunct, there remains the possibility that its activities could have been more widespread than has so far come to light. A greater degree of curiosity on the ICO’s part might have demonstrated this one way or the other.”
A spokesman for the Blacklist Support Group said: “The so-called captains of industry are in complete denial. Even with mountains of evidence they refuse to admit their guilt. They are like the News International at the beginning of the phone hacking scandal.
“Blacklisted workers applaud the Select Committee interim report but just like phone hacking, the full story of the human rights abuse by big business and undoubted police collusion will only be exposed in a full Leverson-style pubic inquiry.
“Anyone who bothers to look knows that blacklisting still continues today: on Crossrail the evidence is blatant.
“So long as blacklisted workers are denied jobs to support our families the weasel words of the multi-nationals are worthless. The interim report is a big step forward but the campaign for justice continues.”
The report from MPs casts doubt on claims by Skanska that its relationship with the Consulting Association was down to one individual, Stephen Quant, who has now left the company.
“It seems implausible that no-one else in the company had the slightest inkling that potential employees or subcontractors were being systematically checked against a database,” the report says.
Meanwhile it says that it believes that Balfour Beatty “regrets being caught, we were less convinced that management regretted its involvement with TCA”.
It asks the construction firm for a copy an internal review it carried out after the ICO raid which it has so far not disclosed.
As for Cullum McAlpine, the company director who gave evidence on his role with the Association, MPs say they are “not persuaded” by his description of that role being “hands-off”.
Steve Murphy, general secretary of the building union UCATT, said: “Every time there has been an evidence session we have learned more about the blacklisting scandal. A further call for evidence and fresh evidence sessions are to be warmly welcomed. The final Scottish Affairs Committee report should act as an essential building block for a full public inquiry into the blacklisting scandal.”