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Trade Unions

Volume 710: debated on Monday 11 May 2009

Statement

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs has made the following Statement.

The Government firmly believe that the blacklisting of trade unionists has no place in a modern system of employment relations. Individuals should not be systematically and secretly victimised for their trade union membership and for engaging in the activities of a trade union.

Section 3 of the Employment Relations Act 1999 contains a power for the Secretary of State to introduce regulations prohibiting the compilation, dissemination and use of lists of trade union members or activists which are drawn up with the purpose of discrimination in relation to their recruitment and treatment by employers or employment agencies.

We consulted on draft regulations in 2003 but they were not implemented. We took that decision because it was then widely believed that blacklisting of this type had been eradicated in the UK. Following the investigation of the Information Commissioner into the affairs of the Consulting Association (TCA), renewed evidence has come to light. The investigation showed that, within the construction industry, a covert vetting system has operated. My officials have worked closely with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) during its investigation and they have examined the detailed information which the ICO seized from TCA. We have discovered that much of the information held by TCA concerned the trade union activities of individuals and gave a very unfavourable account of their suitability for employment.

In the light of these developments, the Government are minded to introduce regulations under Section 3 of the 1999 Act. To ensure we have drafted them correctly and taken account of subsequent developments, BERR will launch a short public consultation early this summer seeking views on revised regulations. We will then seek parliamentary approval of the final draft regulations this autumn, bringing them into effect at the earliest opportunity thereafter. This abuse needs to be addressed as a matter of priority and our aim is to ensure that suitably drafted regulations are implemented with the minimum of delay.