NEW calls for a public inquiry into blacklisting were rejected by ministers yesterday.
Business Minister Margot James said the allegations were too old to merit an official probe — despite the shady database of blacklisted construction workers being operated as late as 2009.
Companies including Keir, Laing O’Rourke, Carillion and Balfour Beatty paid the Consulting Association to keep records of thousands of builders who had acted as shop stewards and raised safety concerns on sites.
The firms then paid for checks on job applicants and denied work to those on the database.
Leading a debate in Westminster Hall, Labour MP Chuka Umunna said: “I have never seen injustice on this scale.”
He said that “taxpayers’ money was being used to inflict misery” on workers and their families because the firms involved had been contracted to work on publicly funded sites — including Parliament’s own Portcullis House.
He called on the government to require the firms, which apologised for their use of the blacklist in the High Court last year, to demonstrate that they had made up for their abuses or be barred from public contracts.
Ms James, responding on behalf of the government, said the practice had been a “terrible blight and indictment of the companies.”
But she rejected the calls for an inquiry, saying that too much time had passed since the height of the practice.
“Such an inquiry would have had an effect 20 years ago, and I regret very much there wasn’t one held then,” she said.
She said the government was “not currently aware of any evidence that the blacklisting regulations [introduced after the database was revealed in 2009] are not doing their job.”
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