High-speed rail revelation hit by blacklisting scandal

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MINISTERS must act to ensure workers are not illegally blacklisted by constructions firms building the new high-speed rail line to the North, a Yorkshire MP has warned.

Labour has called for a full inquiry into mounting allegations of the “shameful” blacklisting of workers because of their trade union links, involving high-profile projects such as London’s Crossrail and the 2012 Olympics. One MP described the scandal as “the worst human rights breach in the UK since the War”.

A raid by the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2009 revealed construction firms have been checking potential employees against a database holding personal information, including trade union activity.

It is alleged the illegal practice is still being carried out by firms who have won major Government contracts.

Next week Ministers are set to announce the route of the high-speed rail line to Sheffield and Leeds, setting the ball rolling for the biggest public sector infrastructure scheme the region has seen in decades.

Speaking in the Commons, Rotherham MP Sarah Champion said blacklisting appears to have been widespread in Yorkshire, and must be stamped out before HS2 gets underway.

“A number of my constituents have contacted me about blacklisting, which unfortunately they have suffered from historically,” she said.

“There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that blacklisting is still going on with Crossrail. Unfortunately, however, unless there is an investigation, we will not be able to prove that as a fact.”

She called on Ministers to “make a clear statement about High Speed Two, and ensure that no blacklisting is allowed.”

Her Labour colleague John Mann, the MP for neighbouring Bassetlaw, revealed he himself had been a victim of blacklisting in the 1980s.

“I went for an interview and was given the job,” he told MPs. “It was confirmed, and I was pleased ... but a week later I get a phone call.

“A very embarrassed human resources person rings me up and says: ‘I’m very sorry... You’re on an economic blacklist and it’s our policy. There’s nothing I can do.’

“She was very embarrassed about it, but said: ‘You can’t have the job. The offer is withdrawn.’”

Mr Mann said he assumed he had been blacklisted because of his role in organising anti-apartheid demonstrations in the 1980s.

“Anyone involved in the anti-apartheid movement somehow managed to get on the blacklist,” he said.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said blacklisting was “indefensible”, but questioned whether there was any real evidence the practice is continuing today, adding: “If it is actually going on, it is a serious matter and it does need investigation, and I of course will want to see it properly investigated – but we want some evidence.”