THE concern over the files is not the first time the issue of secret employment blacklists has been raised in the UK.

Former Glasgow MP and anti-blacklist campaigner, Maria Fyfe, gave evidence to the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee this year about the Economic League, a right-wing vetting agency which accumulated files on thousands of people it considered subversive.

It was originally set up in 1919 at a time when British industrialists were afraid of Bolshevism breaking out in Britain, the inquiry was told.

Thousands of companies paid for information to vet employees, but the league came under scrutiny over allegations it was holding inaccurate records and was wound up in 1993.

Fyfe said the methods used by the league to identify names included combing letters to newspapers, especially the left-wing press.

She cited the case of a war veteran, whose name appeared on the blacklist after writing a letter to a newspaper praising a council for buying a painting of Nelson Mandela.

Other names included novelist William McIlvanney, who was listed as a Marxist – despite saying he has never been committed to any party – and several MPs, Fyfe said. The MPs blacklisted included Adam Ingram, Tom Clarke, Tommy McAvoy, Peter Hain and Maria Fyfe herself.

Fyfe said: "This was described by one victim as McCarthyism in Britain, but he said – and I agree with him – it's worse than that because at least McCarthy was open enough to stand up in front of an American grand committee and say what he thought and believed. All of this was done in secret.

"It is amazing for MPs to be blacklisted, but there were thousands whose job chances were wrecked through this and they never knew it had been done."