Tories ditch law allowing police to spy on unions

By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor

John Hayes, a Tory and “proud union member,” is a rare beast in the corridors of Westminster.

Unlike many in his party he believes in the need for strong unions and he accepted Labour alterations to the Investigatory Powers Bill.

This means that the Government have now canned a law which would have allowed intelligence agencies and the police to spy and monitor union activity.

The changes were agreed after Andy Burnham, Shadow Home Secretary, brought forward substantial changes to the Bill. Now union officials will be protected from warrants to read their e-mails or seize phone records.

There were fears that another clandestine blacklist of union members could be created to keep perceived troublemakers out of employment.

Recently it came to light that tradesman had been put on an unofficial blacklist meaning they couldn’t get work with the major building firms. Famously Ricky Tomlinson became an actor, as he couldn’t work due to being placed on the secretive list. He was lucky, so many others suffered a lack of employment in their chosen profession and a lifetime of financial woes.

Snubbed workers during this time have only just managed to win millions in compensation for the years they were left out in the wilderness.

Tory Home Office Minister John Hayes agreed that it was “neither proportional nor lawful” to investigate legitimate trade union activity and said Labour “can perfectly properly claim it as a victory”.

He said: “I know this is a matter of profound concern to the party opposite, but let me be crystal clear. its a profound concern to me too.

“Trade unions make a vital contribution to free society.

“Working people in this country would be considerably worse off if it weren’t for the activities of trade unions through the ages.

“My father was a shop steward, my grandfather was chairman of his union branch and I’m proud to be a union member myself.”

A jubilant Mr Burham said: “This historic move will improve the governance of our country.

“There is clear evidence that such monitoring was used for unjustified political and commercial reasons, breaching privacy and basic human rights. The blacklisting of construction workers was used to vet people and deny them work.

“We need to understand how covertly-gained police information came into the hands of the shady organisation compiling the blacklist. This is yet another scandal from our country’s past that the public have a right to know about.”

The Trades Union Congress represents 51 unions and 5.8million workers in Britain.

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