28 November 2013
While Coalition politicians bury their heads in the sand as the blacklisting scandal rages on, with Conservative and Liberal Democrat Party members denying evidence of ongoing blacklisting or the need for further legislation, the Welsh Assembly has taken note of the public’s discontent and shown a progressive attitude.
In an evidence session with the Scottish Affairs Committee, which has been running an inquiry into blacklisting in the construction industry for over a year, Welsh Assembly Finance Minister Jane Hutt said the administration is trying to discourage the use of contractors accused of blacklisting for public works.
What’s more, the Welsh Assembly would go much further, she said, if it had the power to do so. However, public procurement legislation is still written in Westminster and the power to change the way public jobs are tendered has not been developed to the Assembly.
Hutt explained that the administration has drafted a new Public Procurement Questionnaire, on which the first question to applicant contractors regards blacklisting. Contractors found to be involved in blacklisting – or who lie about their involvement in it – would not be hired for public contracts (or at least that is the intention).
Unfortunately, without Westminster’s help, it is not possible to make this either mandatory or enforceable, but Hutt explained Wales will use every power it has to ensure their code of practice is followed. This could include “naming and shaming” blacklisters or asking companies known to have been involved in blacklisting to take “self-cleansing” measures to demonstrate its practices have changed. The ‘rehabilitated’ firms would also be expected to contribute to a compensation fund for victims.
Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee Ian Davidson said: “We were very pleased to hear how closely the Welsh Assembly has followed our inquiry and how seriously they have taken the issues raised so far.
“They appear to have a highly developed position on this and are doing everything they can within their existing powers: the question of what more they might be enabled to do is something we will consider.”