Eight firms make a ‘full and unreserved’ apology in effort to shorten High Court case

High Court

Eight major contractors have made a dramatic “full and unreserved apology” and a number of admissions of guilt in the ongoing blacklisting High Court case.

A statement from the eight firms - Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska and Vinci - said they hoped the admissions at this preliminary stage would “simplify” the main High Court proceedings that are scheduled to start in mid-2016.

The eight firms are co-defendants in the High Court case - brought by hundreds of blacklisted workers in pursuit of compensation and further disclosure - and are represented by law firm Macfarlanes.

The eight firms - known as the Macfarlanes Defendants - represent 30 group companies and four individuals. Further defendants in the case are not covered by the admissions and the apology, the Macfarlanes Defendants said.

The firms stated they had submitted a “re-amended” defence in which they “lay out clearly a number of admissions” and “a full and unreserved apology” for their part in blacklisting - a practice run by the Consulting Association until it was raided and closed down in 2009.

In a statement, the firms said: “Both documents contain a full and unreserved apology for our part in a vetting information system run in the construction industry first through the Economic League and subsequently through The Consulting Association; we recognise and regret the impact it had on employment opportunities for those workers affected and for any distress and anxiety it caused to them and their families.”

Building understands the contractors are hoping to shorten the case by making admissions at this stage.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing the blacklisted workers, called the new defence a “radical transformation” and a move “on the path of righteousness”.

Blacklisting victims campaign group the Blacklist Support Group said in a statement that full implications of the Macfarlanes Defendants actions are still to be discussed and agreed.

Blacklist Support Group secretary Dave Smith called the action “a despearate attempt to to try and avoid the spectacle of a High Court conspiracy trail.”

Both the Blacklist Support Group and union Unite renewed their calls for a full public inquiry on blacklisting.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Blacklisting has ruined lives and led to hardship and misery for thousands of people. The admissions from the blacklisters and the damages for the blacklisted are an important step on the road to justice in righting that wrong.

“That road won’t be completed though, or the stain of blacklisting removed, until there is a full public inquiry and the livelihoods of the blacklisted restored by the firms involved giving them a permanent job.”

The eight contractors added: “We are making these admissions now as we believe it is the right thing to do; we are keen to be as transparent as possible […] We hope that the clarity this brings will be welcomed by the affected workers.

Indeed, ever since the closure of The Consulting Association in 2009, we have been focused on trying to do the right thing by affected workers. This was why we set up The Construction Workers Compensation Scheme (TCWCS) in 2014 to provide those who felt they had been impacted by the existence of the vetting system with a fast and simple way of accessing compensation.

“Currently, we have paid compensation to 308 people who have contacted TCWCS and we are processing 39 ongoing eligible claims.

“We remain committed to TCWCS. We are approaching the High Court hearing in the spirit of openness and full transparency and continue to defend the claim strongly in relation to issues of causation and loss.”