On 8 February 2017, Chuka Umunna MP (Streatham) moved a debate in Westminster Hall to consider blacklisting in the construction industry, naming the companies involved, and stating those responsible are yet to be held to account for their actions. Umunna pressed that the issue has fallen off the radar and urged the topic to be put back on the agenda.
Outrage was expressed that not one director or firm has been brought to book or charged with an offence. The Construction Workers Compensation Scheme was denigrated for providing inadequate compensation and established without the prior agreement or involvement of the trade unions. There was further criticism for the lack of requirement of firms to apologise or admit liability, whereas claimants are required to waive any future legal claims.
Umunna outlined his wish to see the strengthening of blacklisting regulations and for the Government to adopt the Scottish Select Committee’s recommendation which requires companies to demonstrate how they have self-cleaned before being permitted to tender for future public contracts – a measure which the Welsh Government has adopted.
Umunna also called for a full Public Inquiry: it should be ensured that a climate of fear does not hang over construction sites.
On behalf of the government, Margot James MP (Stourbridge) responded denying the need for a Public Inquiry. The Information Commissioner’s Office will be undertaking a Call for Evidence later in the year. Since 2009 the ICO has received approximately 5,700 calls from those concerned they had been blacklisted and 3,000 written requests for assistance.
In response to the procurement point it was clear that the government believes there are already measures in place such as contracts not having to be awarded to those found wanting in ethical standards – blacklisting could be ‘shoehorned’ into that category for reason for refusal.
Despite numerous calls for a Public Inquiry, with Umunna remarking that construction workers felt they were being ignored due to their economic status unlike those affected by hacking which led to the Leveson Inquiry, it is clear the Government is not currently prepared to reconsider their earlier decision on this.