UKCG chairman James Wates says Stephen Ratcliffe can survive in his position after mauling by MPs over blacklisting in the industry

Stepehen Ratcliffe

The under-fire boss of the UK Contractors Group has received a vote of confidence from the group’s chairman after he was mauled by MPs investigating blacklisting.

During an hour and a half session before the Scottish Affairs Committee last week, UKCG director Stephen Ratcliffe was told by the committee chairman that his evidence “reflected very badly on you, on your organisation and indeed on the industry”.

Conservative MP and barrister Simon Reevell asked what sanctions could be taken against Ratcliffe after saying to him: “You are the most evasive and potentially dishonest witness I’ve encountered at this committee and frankly in 20 years of practising at the bar.”

UKCG chairman James Wates said this week that Ratcliffe could survive in his position, although he admitted the impact on the industry’s reputation was “not good”.

Wates said: “We have seen some of the greatest business leaders in the country shredded by select committees.

“He [Ratcliffe] had prepared for it […] but he was put in a pretty difficult position.”

Ratcliffe opened his evidence by reading a statement saying that blacklisting has “damaged the reputation of the entire UK construction sector”. Referring to the UKCG firms involved in the scandal, he added: “These companies have accepted that these actions were morally wrong and have apologised.”

Chairman Ian Davidson asked Ratcliffe when he learned about blacklisting and Ratcliffe replied when the press reported it in 2009.

Davidson reminded him he was under oath, adding: “Can you understand why I find that difficult to believe?”

You are the most evasive and potentially dishonest witness I’ve encountered at this committee

Simon Reevell MP

Ratcliffe also said the basis for his claim that firms involved in TCA had apologised was earlier evidence given to the committee by UKCG members, coupled with the fact he had emailed his statement to all members in advance of the hearing and none had raised any concerns with it.

Ratcliffe was then forced to admit that only “five or six” of his 32 members had replied, prompting Davidson to question Ratcliffe’s apology on behalf of members, adding: “I think this is an attempt to deliberately mislead us.”

Davidson also accused Ratcliffe of “negligence” over blacklisting for doing “virtually nothing in four years [since TCA came to light in 2009]”. Ratcliffe said that blacklisting “hasn’t been on the agenda” of the UKCG in the four years since the TCA blacklist was uncovered but repeatedly stressed the organisation’s work in trying to improve safety in the industry.

In his defence Ratcliffe said it was “not easy to be one against a number of people [on the committee]”.

This week Ratcliffe said he was “disappointed” he was unable “to get across to the MPs that UKCG and indeed the entire industry believes blacklisting is morally wrong and should be consigned
to history”.