In the House of Commons last night, during the adjournment debate on blacklisting in the construction industry, the Government Minister for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs, Mr Pat McFadden, confirmed that the Consulting Association, run by Ian Kerr, will be prosecuted under the Data Protection Act 1998 for compiling its database of blacklisted individuals.
During the debate, Mr McFadden said:
“The practice of blacklisting should be anathema in today’s Britain. It is a relic of the past, and if what has occurred recently in the construction industry is blacklisting rearing its head again, of course we will take that seriously…”
“Any company, whether it works on public contracts or not, should comply with the law of the land. We expect companies not to break either data protection law or trade union law when planning or undertaking work for the public sector. Of course we recognise that construction companies need to ensure that they recruit the right calibre of person for the job, but there is no need to undertake covert and unfair vetting of the kind that [the Consulting Association] appears to have performed.”
Mr McFadden confirmed that the Information Commissioner is following up the investigation. However, he was not prepared to confirm that companies who are on the list of users of the Consulting Association’s services will be barred from Government contracts (something that was suggested by Mr Devine, MP for Livingston). Those companies are still under investigation by the Information Commissioner and this could lead to further action. Mr McFadden also confirmed that the Government needs to decide whether those companies’ activities fall within section 3 of the Employment Relations Act 1999.
Not all of those present at the debate were happy with the Government’s response. Mr Purchase (MP for Wolverhampton, North-East) suggested he was concerned with the weakness of the response that the Government was making.
For more information on the blacklisting story, see our previous blog post.