The government intends to introduce new regulations to prevent union members being denied employment by secret blacklists

The government is to consult over new laws that would outlaw companies that use secret blacklists to assess potential employees.

In March the Information Commissioner reported that 40 construction companies, including big players in the m&e world, had subscribed to a database used to vet construction workers, which has now been closed under data protection law.

Business secretary, Lord Mandelson said: "People should not be victimised at work or denied access to employment opportunities because of their trade union membership.

"Evidence from the Information Commissioner showed there was a problem. There is already legal protection against the misuse of people’s personal details. We now plan to strengthen the law by introducing new regulations to outlaw the compilation, dissemination and use of blacklists in this way."

Under the Employment Relations Act 1999, the government has the power to introduce regulations prohibiting the blacklisting of workers for their union membership or activities.

In 2003, the government consulted on draft regulations, but at that time no hard evidence was found that blacklisting was taking place. In response to the consultation, the government committed to reviewing the issue if hard evidence came forward.

The government will launch a consultation in the early summer on revised regulations. As there has already been a full consultation in 2003, this second consultation will be shorter than the usual 12 week period. The short consultation is necessary to ensure that the regulations take full account of developments since 2003 and are up to date and fit for purpose. It will enable interested parties to give feedback on how the regulations can be refined and improved.

Ministers plan to seek Parliamentary approval for the regulations in the autumn and implement them urgently as soon as it can thereafter.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "It is outrageous that unscrupulous employers have been victimising trade unionists through shady blacklisting practices that have no place in a democratic society.

"I am glad that the Government is now consulting speedily on this issue which will, I hope, lead to quick and effective action to outlaw this utterly unacceptable practice."