The application by Scottish and Southern Electric for an injunction to stop picketing outside the Fiddlers Ferry power plant on Merseyside was thrown out of the High Court yesterday (wed). See the BBC and Building magazine (and a clip from BBC North West below).
Out of 1,872 people who have rung the Information Commissioner's Office to see if a blacklisting file is held on them; 238 have had copies of their files sent to them. There were more than 3,200 names on the blacklist database in total.
A couple of weeks back I covered a meeting of the Blacklist Support Group where John McDonnell MP said that there would only be a limited opportunity to inspect proposed legislation aimed at making blacklisting illegal.
Below is a release from Ucatt which explains why it is necessary for there to be scrutiny and why Lord Mandelson should not simply sign the rules into law.
I've filed a longer piece on this (and on many other aspects of the story) for The Guardian. We now await publication of the new rules.
In other news: one of the blacklisted electricians is due before the High Court tomorrow (Wednesday) having been served with an injunction to stop him picketing the Fiddlers Ferry power station on Merseyside. Scottish and South Electric claim he is a threat to the National Grid. Which seems a tad excessive.
A group of Labour MPs have
agreed to work with construction union UCATT to pressurise the Government to
strengthen the draft regulations designed to outlaw blacklisting.
The MPs agreed to take this
action at the parliamentary launch today (October 20) of Ruined Lives, an
academic report which reveals that the Government’s proposed anti-blacklisting
regulations are inadequate. Ruined Lives was commissioned by UCATT and
produced by the Institute of Employment Rights.
Professor Keith Ewing the author
of Ruined Lives said the Government’s draft regulations were “hopeless
and inadequate”. He described how the regulations do not provide a right not to
be blacklisted, if a worker is blacklisted there is no automatic right to
compensation and that it would not be illegal to supply information to a
blacklist. The Government does not propose to make blacklisting a criminal
offence so the burden of proof remains on the affected worker.
Mr Ewing also described how the
draft regulations were too narrowly defined as they only referred to trade union
activity, which could mean that the blacklisting of political activists would
remain legal. The draft regulations also do not cover industrial
Alan Ritchie, General Secretary
of UCATT, described how union health and safety reps were especially targeted by
companies, as they were often swiftly laid off after assuming their duties and
then were unable to find work with other companies.
Speaking about the need for the
draft regulations to be strengthened Mr Ritchie, said: “The regulations don’t
just have to be watertight they have to be airtight so the employers can’t
wriggle out of them.”
John Winstanley a UCATT activist
who was blacklisted throughout his working life told the meeting how between
1964-1987 he had 54 different employers, due to being blacklisted. Resulting in
often having to claim benefits a situation which placed a huge “strain on his
Despite having been in the
construction industry for 50 years Mr Winstanley said that he felt he could not
provide a reference for any of his family because of the, “fear that as I was
blacklisted it would affect the work of my relations.”
The Government is due to publish
the anti-blacklisting regulations before Christmas, following a consultation
exercise that ended in August. The MPs have agreed to ask parliamentary
questions, lobby the Department of Business and use parliamentary scrutiny
methods in order to ensure that the regulations are strengthened.
It's been busy at Trash towers what with the start of term and the addiction that is Twitter; so apologies for the lightness of blogging.
Below is a piece I've just had published by The Big Issue in the North on the police use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Since this came out, Staffordshire have overturned their inital refusal to tell me how much tye spent on buying a UAV. It was £19.500.
Two police forces in the north are leading the way in what
is expected to be an increase in the use of spy drones to combat crime and
Merseyside and Staffordshire have both deployed unmanned
aerial vehicles (UAVs) on operations. More forces are expected to follow their
lead as the security industry learns lessons gained from their use in Afghanistan and Iraq.
However concerns have been raised about both the civil
liberty implications and the safety of the craft.And the police themselves seem reluctant to disclose exactly
what it is they are using.
The Big Issue in the North submitted Freedom of Information
requests to all
police forces asking for details on any UAVs they had trailed or bought.Initially Merseyside and Staffordshire said that it was
necessary to secret details on their spy drones otherwise it would aid
criminals and costs were a commercially confidential.
Following an appeal by the Big Issue, Merseyside relented
and disclosed that it had spent £55,523 on hiring and buying a UAV since August
2007.Its drone, purchased from AirRobot, has been deployed 16
times this year.
The AirRobot is about the size of a dustbin lid and weighs
1.7kg. It is equipped with cameras and recording equipment and is controlled by
a ground operator using a laptop and joystick. It can be ready to fly in
minutes. The force has three uniformed police constables trained to operate the
system and a further seven are undergoing training.
Staffordshire is still withholding its information but is considering
and appeal.It would only say that its UAV, bought for an undisclosed
sum following a trail at the 2007 V Festival, has: “only been used for missing
person searches, exercises, to assist in event planning and for post incident
Staffordshire Police Authority member Christina Jebb told
the media last year: “It’s really good news that we are investing in even
better equipment to cut crime levels in the county.”
The drone can also be loaned out to other members of
Staffordshire’s resilience network, set up to tackle any civil emergencies.
Andy Marshall, Director of Civil Contingencies, said: “The
drone belongs to the police but will be available for joint operations.“It can be used in many situations, for example, allowing us
to quickly get real time video footage of a flooded area.”
There has been plenty of speculation that more police forces
will start using the spy planes, especially following the technical lessons
learned through their deployment in Afghanistan
The most well-known UAV used out there is the Predator which
can fire missiles, carry out surveillance and has been used on a number of
occasions for targeted assassinations. There have also been a number of crashes
as the tough terrain has affected avionics. In one case a US plane had to shoot
down a Predator which had gone out of control.
Although the UAVs record abroad is mixed their increased use
by the police in the UK
is seen by the Home Office as inevitable. The 2012 Olympics is expected to be a
showcase their potential.
The Home Office’s current science and innovation strategy
says: “…(UAVs) are likely to become an increasingly useful tool for police in
the future, potentially reducing the number of dangerous situations the police
may have to enter and also providing evidence for prosecution and support
police operations in real time.”
One idea that has been suggested by a Home Office advisor is
a central fleet of UAVs that could be deployed as forces require them.
Despite this enthusiasm, the take-up by police forces has
been low. Apart from Merseyside and Staffordshire, Essex Police is the only
other force believed to have purchased a drone. It bought one last summer but
it has yet to be deployed.
In 2007 Strathclyde Police undertook a year-long trial of a
UAV in the remote and mountainous Argyll area for search and rescue purposes.
The craft couldn’t take the wild conditions and it was sent back to its
manufacturer. No Scottish or Welsh forces have UAVs.
Avon and Somerset Police
spent £350 on a short trial last year but have not taken it any further.
have been in discussion with arms firm BAe and the UK Border Agency on using
drones to monitor the coastline to combat drug and immigration offences.
The British Transport
Police in Northumbria
have used a Microdrone to help combat thieves stealing metal from the railways
and the Ministry of Defence police is considering whether to buy one.
One of the hold-ups is
that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has strict rules on airspace use.
It says: “A significant increase in both civil and military
UAV flying is anticipated, much of which will require routine access to all
classes of airspace if it is to be commercially viable and/or operationally effective.”
According to a
report released this week from the pressure groups Statewatch and the
Transnational Institute: “The air traffic control community is particularly
suspicious and demands that UAVs adhere to equivalent safety standards as their
manned counterparts, which some argue render UAV systems too expensive to
However it is their spying
ability which has alarmed some.
manoeuvrable, UAVs can perch silently and record still, moving and thermal images.
They can fly in to buildings if necessary. Specialist software has been
developed that allows them to scan large areas quickly for particular vehicles or
record number plates or faces and compare them against databases.
director of Liberty,
said: “It’s a grave step in any democracy to use military surveillance methods
against your own peacetime population. Where I the lawful authority for this
policy? When was the parliamentary debate?”
Weapon of choice
The UAV of choice for police forces appears to be the AR100B
from AirRobot - a German company which has its UK offices on a former RAF base in
The makers of the
drone say: “The AR100B can fly silently through the air or hover while
transmitting live images to the operator at the ground station.
operation and size of the platform allows aerial surveillance to be carried out
in built up residential urban areas as well as rural locations without causing
"The unit can also ‘perch and stare’ from a solid platform
allowing the operator to capture hours of footage from an out of view vantage
"The AR100B is the
perfect device for any covert or overt aerial surveillance mission.”
system was used to provide aerial surveillance at the London Olympics 2012
handover ceremony last year.
It was deployed near
The Mall and Buckingham Palace to provide real
time images to emergency services at the event. However it did not fly directly
over people for safety reasons.
During its five hour deployment it captured still
images and high quality video which was streamed to a command team.
Other forces which have tested an AirRobot include Derbyshire
which used one to monitor a BNP gathering this August. It is believed to be
considering jointly buying one with neighbouring Nottinghamshire Police.
Wiltshire hired one to monitor this year’s summer solstice
at Stonhenge. It cost them £1,500 and shot ten minutes of video footage and “a
number of low definition digital pictures”.
An AirRobot also took part in a massive exercise involving
more than 700 emergency services and military personnel in Wiltshire last year.
The operation was
conducted at the UK Centre for Homeland Security in Wiltshire; where Airrobot is
based. The exercise simulated a mid air collision between a Harrier Jump Jet
The UAV was able
to provide aerial surveillance of the site and found bombs, dangerous cargo,
aircraft wreckage and casualties. It also deployed a thermal imaging camera to
help detect any possible heat sources from buried victims.