The Blacklist Support Group (BSG) has made a formal submission to the Home Office with suggested Terms of Reference for the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing, calling for the judge led inquiry to investigate police surveillance of trade union members. The Pitchford Inquiry was set up by Teresa May before the General Election, in response to revelations that undercover police units spied on bereaved relatives of murder victims, including the Stephen Lawrence family and had long term sexual relationships with women activists they were spying on. BSG are being legally represented by the prominent human rights solicitor Imran Khan, who has supported the blacklisted construction workers since presenting an IPCC complaint about police collusion in blacklisting back in 2012. Imran Khan is also representing Doreen Lawrence in the Pitchford Inquiry. The deadline for such submission is tomorrow (Wednesday 24th June) and the final remit is expected to be published by the end of July.
Proposed Terms of Reference for the Public Inquiry into Undercover policing from the Blacklist Support Group:
“To inquire into and make recommendations as to the role, conduct and governance of the police service and her majesty’s Government in the establishment and deployment of undercover and covert operations, with specific regard to the Special Demonstration Squad, National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit and any other similar units in the police and in particular, to consider:
- The surveillance of trade union activists and trade union supported campaigns;
- The provision of information by the police, whether directly or indirectly, of information contained on databases they have access to, to businesses about prospective employees;
- The collusion, specifically with the Economic League and the Consulting Association and any other similar organisations, in the blacklisting of trade union members;
- The outsourcing of state surveillance operations to private contractors;
- The level and degree of political oversight into the above operations;
- The extent to which the police were assisted in the above operations by the security services;
- The circumstances of, and the reasons for, the loss, destruction and /or unavailability of documentation with regard to the matters above.
The Inquiry will also consider how to fulfill the objectives set out in these Terms of Reference by considering, in particular, the:
- Extent and degree of protection from prosecution, under the Official Secrets Act or any other relevant legislation, of any witnesses giving information / evidence including whistleblowers;
- Extent and degree to which the police’s stated position of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ affects a transparent and thorough investigation into the matters set out above”.
The covering letter to the Home Office from Imran Khan states:
“In 2009, following a raid by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) at premises connected to The Consulting Association (hereinafter “TCA”), it was discovered that there was a database of secret files kept on 3123 trade union activists by some of the largest multi-national building firms in the UK. The database was used to deny trade union activists work on major projects and was a continuation of a process that had been previously conducted by the Services Group within an organisation called the Economic League. There is prima facie evidence that some of the information on the database originated from or was provided by the police. Given this, a complaint was lodged with the Independent Police Complaint Commission (hereinafter IPCC) whose initial scoping of the complaint confirmed that “every Special Branch in the country routinely provided information about prospective employees”.
In addition to the trade union members, around 200 environmental and social justice activists also appear on the blacklist, including some of the women spied on by the undercover police that led to the inquiry to be set up.
Dave Smith, BSG secretary commented:
“3 years ago, when the BSG started talking about the police colluding with big business to spy on trade union members, people looked at us as if we were paranoid conspiracy theorists. But we refused to let it lie and now the evidence is beyond dispute: senior police officers were actively participating with the Consulting Association blacklisting operation. Trade unions are a perfectly legal part of civil society. Why are we being infiltrated by undercover police units and why is the state sharing intelligence with big business?
It is only because we were prepared to kick up a stink that the evidence about police collusion has slowly come to light. We now call upon the Pitchford Inquiry to carry out a thorough and transparent investigation into the out of control anti-democratic practices of these secret political police units. A first step would be for the Inquiry to be given a wide enough remit to uncover the truth, rather than being so narrowly defined that we get another establishment whitewash”
Imran Khan commented:
“It is extremely sad to note that it often takes many years, grave injustices and tenacious individuals to uncover discreditable conduct in society. Those involved in the BSG have been bearing the brunt of severe injustices for a long time. Their hardship in doing so has not diminished their tenacity in seeking to throw light on this most murky of worlds. The Public Inquiry to be chaired by Lord Justice Pitchford will give the BSG the opportunity to not only uncover what happened to them but also ensure that the general public finally hears what went on and that the conduct complained of never happens again.”
John McDonnell MP, who has championed the cause of blacklisted workers in parliament commented:
“Thousands of innocent trade unionists and their families have suffered at the hands of blacklisting companies. They deserve a thorough and open inquiry to bring out the truth of how they were victimised and harmed by blacklisting.”