03/02/2013 The Wales Report


Huw Edwards takes a look at issues that matter in Wales. There have been calls for compensation for Welsh workers blacklisted for trade union activity. And is Wales over-governed?

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Tonight on The Wales Report, we are at Westminster, asking just how


many elected politicians does it take to govern Wales effectively.


Is it time for a major rethink? And the price of union membership, we


look at the case of the blacklisted Welsh workers, punished for


exercising their basic rights. Stay with us. We are at Westminster for


the programme, the Prime Minister failed to win approval for his


plans to cut the number of MPs and constituencies by 50. We will be


discussing the implications for Wales and its main Wales -- layers


of government. But first, a scandal affecting many trade unions in


Wells involved in the construction industry. That practice of


blacklisting has had a devastating effect. As many as 40 building


firms were said to be using a name, -- using those names, and there


Employers regarded unions as troublemakers and no company bosses


wanted a striker on their hands. Fast-forward 40 years, and it was


in the nothing has changed. Throughout the Eighties and


Nineties, some of the biggest names in construction used a secret


database to vet staff. The secret files contained are the names of


more than 3000 construction workers. Detailing their trade union links


and whether they had reported health and safety breaches and a


whole host of other personal information. Many on the list were


branded trouble makers and politically motivated. Others were


just on therefore simply raising health and safety concerns and some


found it impossible to get work as a result of being on it. When I


started on site, when they were jacket -- checking my details, I


had been working there for a few days. At the end of my second day,


by eight services were not what hat -- required. One a asked the


question, I had to press it, it was told -- I was told about its it


being about my trade union activities which was active on


other sites elsewhere so because of that they refused. They were quite


open about it. It was extremely difficult, there were many


Christmases that I could not provide what other families could


provide, or certainly other people could pride for their families.


When I think about that, I become very bitter. This has affected many


people's lives. Dramatically. Some people have taken their lives


because they think there is no hope for themselves. The existence of


the list which was set up by a company called the consulting


Association was revealed in 2009. There database was sealed -- seized


by the Information Office and the firm was shut down for breaching


data protection laws. What was on the list provoked widespread


outrage. We believe that this runs into tens of thousands of


individuals. We have been unable to put an accurate figure on that,


because the information commissioner has refused to tell us


how many people are affected, they have also refused to contact those


individuals which we think is a scandal. Tonight, we can reveal the


full extent of the list's impact on workers across the length and brat


of Wales. At least 111 builders and construction tradesmen living or


working in Wales were on that list. Details of workers from Anglesey to


Denbigh share, right down to Swansea and Cardiff. They were all


on the consulting Association list. Many still are not aware of their


names were on the list and no one knows exactly what was written


about them. That particular list no longer exists. The UK group which


represents some of the firms involved say that no company would


ever discriminate against a worker for flagging up a health and safety


issues. They also say that there is no evidence to suggest that workers


are being blacklisted today. But we have been told by one construction


worker that it is still going on all over Wales. He does not want us


to reveal his identity because he feels speaking out would get him


into trouble. Blacklisting has existed for such a long time, and


is evident now. I do not think they want any sort of trade unionism at


all on site. They prefer to dictate what goes on, and whether there are


any concerns from the employee with regards to health and safety or any


issues, they would rather undermine that and not have you there. There


are many others who also believe that blacklisting is still


widespread in the construction centre. They are calling for urgent


action. A I think this is a widespread practice, and I would be


deeply sceptical about this being the only instance and the only


instance which is now finished. Publicly-funded construction


project including the Olympic Stadium were built by companies to


have admitted using the Consultant Association's lists to recruit


staff. So how do we stop that from happening again? There are now


calls for the Welsh government to attach conditions to publicly


funding Bills, which spell out how recruited -- employees should be


recruited. Failure to comply would result in a fine. I believe here in


Wales we could do something about procurement policy. We cannot


control the private sector procuring goods, there is a massive


amount, three to �4 billion of public procurement every year here


in Wales. If we can change and affect the way procurement works in


Wales, we can make a big difference across Britain. This was a huge


crime against thousands and thousands of workers, had without


justification. Many working on building sites across Wales now


want compensation for what they are calling the unemployable years, and


they want the world government and local councils to help them stabbed


at blacklisting as a practice -- the Welsh government to help them


stamp out blacklisting. Only will those days when being part of a


union landed you on a list of undesirables will truly be part of


the past. With me now is Corinna Ferguson,


legal officer for the civil rights group Liberty. Thank you for


joining us. Lots of people will find it difficult to believe that


this kind of thing still goes on. To what extent does it go on?


we don't know and we are very concerned those operating in those


industries do not have -- probably have not been given the deterrent


or the penalties the part required to prevent this sort of activity


going on in the future. It could be going on now. A there could be some


people watching saying, if I'm one of business, I want people working


for me he was committed and dedicated, I do not want trouble


makers. I want to find out to those workers are that I wished to avoid.


What is wrong with that? It seems that the industry definition of a


company definition which constitute a troublemaker is someone who is


simply eight member of a trade union, perhaps a shop steward. I


have seen some of the extract from the blacklist of people who had


raised genuine health and safety concerns and we are talking life


and death matters, these are people who had have raised a very serious


health and safety concerns, in the interests of all the workers on the


building sites, and it is not proper grounds to exclude them from


employment. We heard on the report there, people saying it still goes


on. Is that something that you think government needs to tackle in


a more rigorous way? The real issue is that they have not been the


penalties in the past two deter companies from doing this, so I


would not be at all surprised if they think if they can get away


with it. So at the first move, the penalties should be increased


drastically? The information commissioner has the power to issue


monetary penalties, and they can be quite substantial, into the tens of


thousands of pounds. They ought to be doing that if there is any


suspicion that companies are engaging in this practice. We do


think there are grounds for the information of Commissioner to look


at this afresh, given that they did not go into it into any detail in


2009. Thank you very much. If David Cameron had his way, there


would be fewer MPs here at Westminster representing fewer


constituencies. 600 instead of the current 650. Or Wales would lose 10


of its 40 MPs, and there would be a new member -- method of collecting


members to the National Assembly in Cardiff. Those plans are on hold


after the loss of the parliamentary vote. The debate is still very


active. Of the governed by too many elected representatives? -- are we


governed by too many elected representatives? At the local level,


There are business leaders to think so, and a Welsh MEP who thinks so


and the Prime Minister thinks there as well. Think what? That Wales is


over governed. Councillors to assembly members, MPs and MEPs, a


list of world political representatives is long. We asked


some -- We are some of the most governed people in the world,


totting up 8000 community councillors, 1000 there had -- 1300


councillors, more than Scotland, 60 AMs, and that is not touching the


non-elected keepers of the public bodies. How many politicians does


it take to change all run a country? This week the Prime


Minister's attempt to slim down the number of MPs and cut the cost of


politics, as he put it, was thwarted at a vote in Westminster.


Welsh MPs who would have been floating -- facing a process can


breathe easy for now. The notion that Wales has a divine right for


40 MPs is a preposterous thing. Some of the arduous that have been


heard recently trying to defend the status quo are visible and frankly


embarrassing. There is no rational reason why Wales has no -- more MPs


per head than any other part of the UK. The idea that 40 is necessary


to reflect the cultural diversity and the community spirit which is


apparently unique to Wales is just embarrassing. Why should Wales have


more MPs per head than England or Scotland or Northern Ireland?


devolved Wales, the focus is more and more on how we are governed and


by whom. And whisper this, because they know it is the wrong time to


say it, but there are those who believe that given the job there is


to be done if now here in Cardiff Bay, we need more elected


representatives to do it. A number of people have looked at this, most


famously the Richard Commission. And have concluded that 80 members


is of to them for the assembly. It can work with 60 as we have been


proving. I think the best way to look at this is after a week -- if


we stick with 60, we can do less than it we could with 80. If people


want that, that is fair enough. comes a bit of science, sort of.


There is a theory that says most countries throughout the world have


ended up with assemblies or first house sounds is that Correspondent


-- that corresponds to the cube root of the population, the optimum


size. Instead of 60 assembly members, we would end up with 144.


Eighties -- is it a case of cuts to tant tears of politics and a boost


of others? We have too many politicians in the wrong place, too


many MPs and councillors, not enough assembly members. In terms


of the second chamber in London, Wales has not represented properly


at all. The whole situation is in Congress, inconsistent, irrational.


Given that long list of political representatives in debating


chambers, towns all over Wales, in Cardiff Bay, Westminster, Brussels,


some argue there is a confusion, and duplication event of, of roles


between institution. Government is confusing. In modern society, we


expect government to do so much that I get confused as to what is


the responsibility of MPs and AMs sometimes because sometimes the


border is very grey. We have had a bill of the Assembly passed to the


Supreme Court to decide whether we have the responsibility or not.


MEPs, MPs, AMs, councillors, is this a politician first or


essential representation in a compressed so world? If you are of


the over governed persuasion, Is Wales over governed? Yes and no.


I agree that we have too many local authorities, which was the creation


of the former Government. We have 22 -- three national parks, so the


numbers are ridiculous. We also have health boards. The answer is


to slimline the internal governance of Wales and then deal with the


national governance and the external governments. We will come


to those in a second. We will deal with the local authority's first,


which date back to the 90s. It is a second devolution that does not fit


today's settlement. How many should there have been? I think the


decision has been made for us by the health structure. Wales should


have something in the order of between 5 and 7 counties. That is


an enormous reform to undertake. Is there any appetite? I am talking


blue skies, well, grey skies. is realistic? What is realistic is


for this job to be done by the Welsh local Government association


alongside the Welsh Government or indeed the committee or commission


of the Assembly and local Government together. So a drastic


reduction paired with a significant reduction in the number of MPs at


Westminster to 30? Do you think that is realistic? That should have


happened already, really, shouldn't it? On the principles that we have


heard already. I cannot disagree with that but politically I am


supposed to take the other view. I regard the issue of the numbers of


members of Parliament as a secondary issue to the issue of the


governance of Wales. But you think there should be a reduction and his


30 the number you would be happy with? I think it has to be equal


throughout United Kingdom and I look at the United Kingdom as a


federal state, so that means the second chamber as well needs to


reflect the balance. When Scotland changes its relationship in one way


or another from the rest of the United Kingdom, then that will be


another determining factor. Just to nail that down, the 30 or 40


reduction is something you would have been happy with if it had gone


through? I am trying to wriggle on that because I did once vote to


save the souls of those 10 MPs. as part of the bigger reform?


I think there is a deal to be done in a reduction of the number of


local councillors, the reform of local Government, but as part of


that good deal that also takes account of the number of MPs and


the number of Assembly members. What drives the need for more


representation in Cardiff is the amount of work that Cardiff now


does. We will discuss Cardiff in one second. It may just complete


the Westminster picture. What is the nature of Welsh representation


to be in the House of Lords in the second chamber? Well, you know, I


despair. I was one of the original members of something called


Democratic peers, led by my friend Richard, and of course we have not


got anywhere. It has all gone into the sand and I very much regret


that. Partly because I find being called a Lord an embarrassment. I


am a senator, in that sense, and that is not unusual, for people to


be members of the National Assembly in their region and also to do work


at the state level, or indeed at European level. What would an


acceptable level of Welsh representation be in the second


chamber? It has to be related to the population. So it would be 5%


of the membership of a reformed House. I think that would work very


well at 350. The US Senate has much less than that. Cardiff, crucially,


given the increasing responsibility being taken on by it National


Assembly, are you in favour of an increase in the number of AMs to


80? Yes, I was convinced of it in theory when Richard reported. Along


with that goes another reform, which is the introduction of the


single transferable vote in multi- member constituencies. I am


absolutely clear that this division between regional members does not


make any sense for the electorate or the political parties. Therefore


I think we have to go for that but also convince the people of Wales


that it is necessary, at and get agreement across parties. This is


how devolution has developed, different to Scotland, in Wales


through the last referendum. So it does mean the Conservatives, the


Liberal Democrats, Labour and played come we agree in the way


forward. It is a challenge. -- and Plaid Cymru. It is a challenge and


people tell us constantly that they are fed up with the numbers of


politicians. Yes, but we are making laws. The level of governance of a


small nation, if you prefer, that is why governments mostly happens.


Finally, timescale. What you are talking about his ambitious, Major


in scope. By one could such a reform package be implemented? --


buy wine? I think by eight the next Assembly elections. How realistic


is that? I am pragmatic and realistic but also ambitious for


Wales. I do not see effective democracy ever come into the second


chamber or even the first chamber in Westminster. I see the challenge


that Scotland faces. Whatever happened in the referendum in


Scotland, there will be changes in the Government. The Government of


Wales must be effective. It must be possible to call Welsh ministers to


account more effectively than we do now and to make better Welsh law.


What is a point of making Welsh law after 1000 laws if we do not make


it better than it has been done in Westminster?


Here in London the latest economic data suggests that retailers are


weathering the economic storm a little better than other parts of


the UK and certainly better than in many parts of Wales. Boarded-up


shops, empty town centres, and a rise in out-of-town retail parks is


an all-too-familiar scene. Is it already too late to rescue the


Welsh High Street? One Welsh businesswoman says she has the


answer. More from her in a moment. But first, the voices of Newport


and shopkeepers there. In 15 months the foot fall has


probably dropped by 25% because of fewer people coming into town


because of shops disappearing. We are being pushed out by big


companies like Tesco, ASDA, especially my trade personally as


if shoe repairer. On the High Street is -- it is not looking good.


When my lease runs out it might not be with me staying here. I have


worked here for 22 years and I have seen it go from OK to worse.


Unfortunately it is becoming much harder, very hard. This town had


renovations in 1980, it is now 2013 and nothing has been done. Parking


is atrocious and expensive. People cannot afford it and they tend to


go out of town. If the Government and the councils do not pull out


their fingers, there will be no city centres. We have been here now


in the city centre for about eight years. The changes that we have


seen have been at the drop in foot fall, and there is nothing being


done down this end of the city centre to encourage shoppers down


here. They need to do something with the business rates, and until


then businesses will be leaving. Newport was starting to go downhill


and we have seen that for a year or so. We have got to ride it out to


see how long we can go. If anything is not done, within this year, I


would not like to say what will happen. I have been here for eight


years. About 10 shops have closed in the past couple of weeks, since


Christmas. Most people are going. I will be going when my lease runs


out. With me now is Laura Tenison, the founder and managing director


of maternity wear and children's clothing chain JoJo Maman Bebe.


That was depressing. Do you think that is representative? Absolutely.


Newport city centre is just tragic. I love Newport, particularly the


market. There is a real feel of community there, but over the years


it is just dying, dwindling. What has gone wrong? Look at Tesco on


the outskirts of town. It has just doubled its footprint, its space.


Why? I don't know why we need to have a Tesco that drains everyone


away from the city centre with free parking. As the other retailers


were saying, the fact that business rates are still quite high, the


fact that parking is virtually impossible in the city centre. I go


into the town centre because I'm on my way to the station and I am on a


bicycle but most people, unless they are on foot, they can't really


get into the city centre. There is very little to come in for. The


towns that are successful in this country are the towns and suburbs


of large cities that have a vibrant local communities. What we want is


people living above the shops so that they use the local retailers


and form a community. Lots of people watching will say, hang on,


we are dealing with the trend that has been going on for over 20 years.


Out-of-town shopping centres, people drive to them and find them


convenient in many ways. The parking is easy and all the rest of


it. It is pie in the sky to talk about reversing that. It will not


happen. These town centres need to be helped in a different way,


surely. The big shops are not going to come back in, are they?


disagree completely. My entire business plan is based on


regenerating local high streets. We don't go into out-of-town shopping


centres, and that we boycott them. I occasionally go into a shopping


scheme, but only when it is city centre. The reason is because I


cannot bear the waist. We have these amazing buildings. I know


Newport well. The buildings and architecture, the community


atmosphere, it is fantastic. But the lack of foot fall means that


everything is dying. What we can do is look at the long-term prospects


for the city and do not allow any more out-of-town building.


Encourage people in with lower rates and good incentives. Why


can't we have good, local free parking in the city centre? Are you


paying a price for the way that you have gone about this, in business


terms? If you had gone into the big out-of-town shopping centres with


the high football, would you have done better business? Is that right


or wrong? I don't think so because I am filling a gap in the market.


We find that if we go into the right towns, there is a lot of


passing trade that does not want to put their small children in a calf


and drive to an out-of-town shopping centre. -- in a car. In


fact people call us up and ask us to come into their town. They don't


want to put their toddlers in the car for an hour and dry for an hour


to the shops. If you have the shops in your local community, you can


have a really nice day out. Shopping centres are very


impersonal. How often do have a nice chat with the security guard


in a shopping centre? You don't. You walk in and do your business


and there is no community atmosphere. In your local town


there is a community and this fear and in Newport we can see that


still but something has to happen quick otherwise it will be too late.


-- community atmosphere. You think there is still some hope? Some


people think it is too late. have to act quickly but we have got


some success stories. I am opening in Monmouth later in the year,


which has a thriving High Street. It has good independent retailers


that have been there for years. Actually, even through the tough


economic times they have succeeded. We have some small chains coming in.


Some national names coming in. Actually I do believe that while I


am an independent retailer, I don't happen to have 56 stores, I have


grown because I unsuccessful. We have an enormous mail order based


as well. If I open in Monmouth, he does not mean that the other


retailers will be damaged. It actually means that they will


benefit. What is sad about Newport and the High Street there, you


don't see many national brands because they have moved to the out-


of-town shopping centres. If the council had not given them planning


permission to open out of town, they would be in the city centre.


They want to get the Newport spent, but they will get it whenever it is


most convenient. It is good to hear about a good Welsh success story.


Thank you. That's it for this week's programme. We're taking a


break next week, it's the big BAFTA night, but remember you can get in


Huw Edwards presents a current affairs series taking a look at issues that matter in Wales.

There have been calls for compensation for Welsh workers blacklisted for trade union activity.

And is Wales over-governed? Or do we need more politicians to make it work?

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