The government has launched a consultation on new regulations that will make it illegal for trade union members to be denied employment through secret blacklists.

The story follows the case of Ian Kerr, the owner of the company that compiled a blacklist of construction workers. Kerr pleaded guilty to breaching the Data Protection Act in May this year. He is awaiting sentencing at the Crown Court.

Kerr's firm, Consulting Association, is said to have produced a blacklist of over 3000 workers. Over 40 companies subscribed to Kerr’s list, which was discovered during an investigation by the Information Commissioner. The companies include major players in the M&E sector including N G Bailey, Haden Young, Balfour Kilpatrick and Shepherd Engineering Services.

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said: “Blacklisting someone because they are a member of a trade union is totally unacceptable. I am determined to act quickly to stamp out this despicable practice. Today's proposals outline how we will deliver this.”

The main proposals are:

• to make it unlawful for organisations to refuse employment or sack individuals as a result of appearing on a blacklist

• to make it unlawful for employment agencies to refuse to provide a service on the basis of appearing on a blacklist

• to enable individuals or unions to pursue compensation or solicit action against those who compile, distribute or use blacklists

This consultation will run for a shorter than usual period of six weeks to enable legislation to be brought forward as soon as possible.