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Ministers 'must probe blacklisting'

The Government has been urged to launch an investigation into claims of blacklisting against workers on the prestigious Crossrail project after "clear proof" that the practice is continuing.

The chairman of the Scottish Affairs select committee has written to Business Secretary Vince Cable calling for a "full and thorough" investigation into the controversy. The committee has been taking evidence from the building trade, including unions, as part of an inquiry into blacklisting and had now heard "compelling evidence" that it was used in the £14.5 billion project to build a 73-mile railway through Central London.

Labour MP Ian Davidson, who chairs the committee, said Mr Cable indicated during a Commons debate earlier this year that he is willing to look at any evidence that indicates blacklisting of construction workers is continuing.

Mr Davidson wrote: "The committee has now received written evidence and held a formal committee hearing on the July 3, with Gail Cartmail of Unite, who has given us what we believe to be clear proof that blacklisting for trade union and health and safety activities has been going on within the contract for the Crossrail project run by BFK (BAM, Ferrovial and Kier).

"The committee is unanimous in believing that this evidence should be passed to yourselves to be pursued further even while other parts of our enquiry are continuing. We intend to continue our wider investigations into blacklisting and will be calling further witnesses but believe that the Government should now investigate, as promised, the clear and unequivocal evidence that has been received about blacklisting on the Crossrail project.

"I would expect that those responsible for public sector contracts throughout the United Kingdom would want to take account of the evidence we have received before compiling future tender lists or awarding contracts."

Ms Cartmail, Unite's assistant general secretary, said: "The Scottish Affairs committee is doing fantastic work to uncover injustices being perpetrated against workers who only wanted to support their fellow colleagues at work or who raised health and safety concerns in one of Britain's most dangerous industries. We believe that there is compelling evidence that blacklisting is taking place here and now in the UK.

"We urge the Business Secretary to agree to the committee's request to undertake a thorough investigation. It is unacceptable that contractors working on high-profile projects should be allowed to get away with these activities without intervention from the Government. An investigation by the Government would be a significant milestone for the victims' campaign for justice. We urge Vince Cable to act without delay and respond with a Leveson-style inquiry."

Blacklisting came to light four years ago when the West Midlands offices of the Consulting Association were raided by the Information Commissioner's Office and a list of thousands of construction workers seized. Confidential files were drawn up on workers deemed to be "troublemakers", often for merely raising concerns about health and safety on building sites.

The covert operation, used by over 40 building firms, led to thousands of skilled tradesmen being denied work for years. The GMB union is taking legal action on behalf of some building workers whose names were on the list, seeking compensation for being denied work.

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