Chuka Umunna promises 'justice' to blacklisted construction workers

Shadow Business Secretary promises inquiry will be held into "disgraceful" blacklisting of construction staff

Lynne Cameron/PA Wire Shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna
Shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna

A Labour government would hold a full inquiry into the “disgraceful” blacklisting of construction workers, Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna has told the party’s annual conference in Manchester.

He pledged to fight for justice for the 130 North East workers named as “troublemakers” who should not be employed on a secret blacklist run by construction firms.

The scheme came to light in 2009 when officials from the Information Commissioner’s Office, an official watchdog, raided an office in Worcestershire which had been used to store the list, but it is believed to have been going on for 16 years.

Around 40 construction firms paid £3,000 a year for the right to access the list, which contained the names of 3,213 workers.

In his speech to delegates, Mr Umunna said: “It is for the sake of justice that we will set up a proper inquiry into the disgraceful blacklisting of construction workers.”

The list included details of supposed shortcomings of employees.

One construction worker was described as showing “signs of militancy over safety”, while another was named “as a shop steward and member of the Transport and General Workers Union” and a possible Communist.

Mr Umunna said Labour would abolish zero hour contracts and raise the minimum wage, after party leader Ed Miliband revealed plans over the weekend to increase the minimum wage to £8 an hour.

In his own speech to the conference, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls highlighted plans to devolve power to local councils and combined authorities.

He said: “Why should decisions on what skills Manchester needs be made in Whitehall?

“Why should a Transport Minister in Westminster make decisions about all the transport needs of Birmingham, Newcastle or Leeds?

“So our economic plan will devolve power and resources not only to Scotland and Wales but to city and county regions in every part of England.”

Signalling that spending cuts would continue under a Labour government, Mr Balls insisted Labour had to prove to voters it could be trusted to get the deficit down.

He said: “Even after the progress and successes of our last four years, we have more work to do to show Labour can deliver the change that people want to see.

“To show that we have learned from our time in government, that we will make the tough decisions we need to get the deficit down, and that we can change our economy and make it work for working people.”

But he stressed that cuts would be targeted at those who could afford to pay, including scrapping winter fuel benefit for the richest five per cent of pensioners.

Mr Balls pledged: “I can announce today that if we win the election, on day one of the next Labour government, the pay of every government Minister will immediately be cut by five per cent.

“Ministerial pay will then be frozen each year until we have achieved our promise to balance the nation’s books.”

And he said Labour must admit it had made mistakes when it was last in power, adding: “We should have had tougher rules on immigration from Eastern Europe – it was a mistake not to have transitional controls in 2004.”

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