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EHRC Exposed Part 2: Chairman of watchdog probing Labour ‘profited from blacklisters’

THE official investigation into anti-semitism in the Labour Party faces renewed criticism today as the Morning Star reveals that the investigative body’s chairman financially benefited from companies at the centre of the blacklisting scandal.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) chairman David Isaac is now under fire for receiving substantial sums of money from a law firm that defended construction industry giants over the blacklisting of trade unionists.

Former Labour MP Ian Davidson said the watchdog’s chairman “obviously cannot be trusted to be impartial when dealing with the Labour Party.”

The EHRC launched an investigation in May into allegations of anti-semitism in the Labour Party, but Mr Davidson spoke out after the Star highlighted that the watchdog’s chairman was an equity partner at Pinsent Masons.

The corporate law firm has previously advised the Conservative government and major corporations.

Equity partners at the firm can receive as much as £620,000 in annual profits according to results published on Thursday. Mr Isaac is understood to receive a “reduced” sum.

His business interests have alarmed Mr Davidson, who said: “I’m shocked to hear that the chairman of the EHRC is a full partner in Pinsent Masons, because Pinsent Masons was the legal firm that defended building employers that were caught blacklisting workers.”

Mr Davidson acknowledged that although Pinsent Masons “will say that they only did it for the money, this partner who is now Chairman of the EHRC will have financially benefited from defending blacklisting.”

He remembers the firm from his time running Parliament’s Scottish affairs committee, which probed the blacklisting scandal.

At a committee hearing in 2014 one of Mr Isaac’s colleagues from Pinsent Masons defended eight construction companies involved in discriminating against workers.

Pinsent Masons helped launch the Construction Workers Compensation Scheme and was criticised by the committee for unintentionally misleading some MPs into thinking the initiative was backed by trade unions, when in fact they harboured criticisms of the scheme.

Pinsent Masons also represented construction firms in a High Court bid to obtain up-to-date addresses of blacklisted victims, which one trade union leader said was “the equivalent of a witness in a murder trial having their new identity given to the murderer.”

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Pinsent Masons which, as a law firm, is entitled to vigorously represent its clients.

Rather the concern centres on Mr Isaac’s dual role as a corporate lawyer and human rights regulator. 

Earlier this week the Star revealed that Mr Isaac has recused himself from the EHRC’s investigation of unequal pay at the BBC because Pinsent Masons does occasional work for the broadcaster.

The Star also revealed that EHRC chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath had recused herself from the watchdog’s anti-semitism probe into the Labour Party after the board agreed “there was concern that there could be a perception of bias.”

An EHRC spokeswoman told the Morning Star: “We are an independent regulator and take our impartiality very seriously.

“All decisions about enforcement action are based strictly on thorough examination of the evidence and information provided to us.”

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