Socialist Worker

Tens of thousands more names could have been on blacklists

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2325

Electricians held a flashmob protest against blacklisting last month, blockading London’s Oxford Street (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Electricians held a flashmob protest against blacklisting last month, blockading London’s Oxford Street (Pic: Socialist Worker)

New evidence has emerged of tens of thousands of workers being on blacklists. The scale of the blacklist may be far larger than previously thought—and it goes well beyond the construction industry.

A raid in 2009 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) confiscated documents from the office of the Consulting Association.

It was initially thought the documents listed 3,213 construction workers on a blacklist that illegally singled people out for political or union activities. These names were sold on to employers.

But this may have been as little as 5 percent of the list. Evidence from the ICO at a Scottish select committee inquiry into blacklisting suggests there is far more yet to come to light.

David Clancy, an ICO investigator, told the select committee, “There was a lot more stuff that wasn’t covered by our warrant.”

He was asked “When you say a lot more, did you seize ten percent of the stuff, five percent or 90 percent?” Clancy replied, “It’s very difficult. I would say between five and ten percent of the stuff.

“We didn’t search every item within the office because our warrant said the existence of a blacklist. Once we’d found that our search in theory should stop because we’d found the evidence we were looking for.”


He adds, “What the other 90 or 95 percent was I can’t comment on because we didn’t go through lots of it. We just took the information that was relevant to our inquiry.”

Clancy is then repeatedly asked whether the other information was also a blacklist. He cannot tell because he did not look at the other information.

He says, “We didn’t go through all the other information. We looked and said that is the information that is the blacklist that operates in the construction industry.

“We just went in—there were filing cabinets full of stuff. We identified we’d got the blacklist for the construction industry and said this is the evidence we’ve come in for.”

The ICO has admitted it “could have done more” to contact the workers it knows are on the blacklist, and that companies may have lied to its investigators about their use of the blacklist.

Roy Bentham from the Blacklist Support Group told Socialist Worker, 'On hearing the revelations, we were absolutely gobsmacked. The ICO were crucial in uncovering 3213 names and we thanked them for that. But they have hidden behind bureaucracy in not investigating the other estimated 95 percent of files on the same premises.

'It must be said that they may now be viewed as a government guard dog without teeth.

'To eradicate blacklisting, we cannot hide behind excuses of red tape.”

Socialist Worker previously revealed how police or security services provided some of the information in the files. This was again confirmed in the ICO evidence.

Did Ian Kerr hoard Economic League files?

Clancy was asked at the Scottish select committee, “So for all you know there could, therefore, be blacklists for other industries? The shipping industry, railways, local government, anything else…”

He replied, “There could have been. But I don’t know.” Clancy added, “In fact Kerr provided us then with a list of participant companies.”

Ian Kerr is the shadowy private detective who ran the Consulting Association. He began his career investigating in the 1970s trade unionists and left wing activists for the Economic League.

The Economic League was a secretive, rightwing vetting organisation set up in 1919 to fight Bolshevism. It held files on up to 45,000 people it considered “subversives”, and was funded by 2,000 or more employers.

The league was wound up in 1993 in a welter of bad publicity. But a company called Caprim was set up the following year by the league’s former directors.

Caprim was declared bankrupt a month after the raid on Consulting Association. And it is unclear where the Economic League’s files ended up.

One possibility is that Kerr simply transferred the Economic League’s blacklists over to the Consulting Association. This would explain the countless additional files Clancy saw but did not investigate.

» Listen to a recording of the committee evidence

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Thu 18 Oct 2012, 16:30 BST
Issue No. 2325
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