Watch Keir Starmer’s statement
On Thursday 29 October 2020, the EHRC published its report relating to their investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party.
This report is the result of an investigation that was launched by the EHRC on 28 May 2019 in response to serious concerns about allegations of antisemitism and a number of formal complaints made to us.
The EHRC’s investigation was prompted by complaints made to the EHRC by Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) and the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) in the summer and autumn of 2018.
The EHRC’s report can be found here: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/publication-download/investigation-antisemitism-labour-party.
What does the report say?
The report highlights “serious failings in the antisemitism complaint handling system”, “significant failings in the way the Labour Party has handled antisemitism” and “serious failings in leadership”.
The report finds:
- “A clear breakdown of trust between the Labour Party, many of its members and the Jewish community”;
- A culture that is “at odds with the Labour Party’s commitment to zero-tolerance of antisemitism”;
- Serious failings in leadership, processes and culture in dealing with antisemitism within the Party;
- Specific examples of unlawful harassment and unlawful indirect discrimination;
- “Clear examples” of inappropriate political interference in individual antisemitism cases;
- “An inadequate process for handling antisemitism complaints” across our Party;
- Inadequate resourcing of the complaints process and poor record-keeping;
- A failure to deliver adequate training for all those responsible for investigating antisemitism cases; and
- Repeated failures to implement in full the recommendations of previous reports into antisemitism.
What are the key findings?
- Unlawful harassment through the acts of agents of the Party: the EHRC has found the Party to have breached the Equality Act 2010 by committing unlawful harassment of its members related to race (Jewish ethnicity) through the acts of its agents in two of the complaints they investigated.
- Unlawful indirect discrimination (political interference): the EHRC conclude that throughout the period they investigated, there was political interference in the handling of individual antisemitism complaints, and that this was indirectly discriminatory and unlawful.
- Indirect discrimination (training): the EHRC find that there was a failure to deliver adequate training to individuals responsible for handling antisemitism complaints and that this failure contributes to a lack of trust and confidence in the complaint handling system, meaning that this failure indirectly discriminated against Jewish Party members. However, the EHRC conclude that there is justification (for a period of six months from the date of their report) for the Party’s failure to provide practical training and so they do not currently make a finding that this is currently unlawful.
Unlawful act notice and the resulting action plan
What is an unlawful act notice?
- Where it is determined by the EHRC that unlawful acts have been committed, an unlawful act notice is accordingly served.
- In this instance, the EHRC’s investigation has found that the Labour Party has committed unlawful acts and has, therefore, served an unlawful act notice on the Party on Thursday 29 October 2020.
What does this mean?
- The Party is now legally obliged to draft an action plan within six weeks – i.e. By Thursday 10 December 2020 – to tackle the unlawful act findings that have been made in their report. The action plan must be based on the EHRC’s recommendations to avoid such acts from happening again.
- The action plan must be agreed with the EHRC and will include specific timeframes and success measures to achieve compliance with their recommendations. Once it is agreed, this will be legally-binding and the EHRC will continue to monitor the Party (and enforce it in case of any non-compliance).
The unlawful act notice that has been issued by the EHRC may be appealed by the Party. Will the Party be appealing the unlawful act notice it has been issued?
The report’s recommendations
Does the EHRC’s report make any recommendations?
- Yes, the report makes a series of recommendations that are intended to correct both the unlawful act findings but also the wider failings that the EHRC highlights in their report.
- Amongst their various recommendations, the key ones include:
- Commission an independent process to handle and determine antisemitism complaints and put in place long-term arrangements for independent oversight of the complaint handling process;
- Acknowledge, through its leadership, the effect that political interference has had on the handling of antisemitism complaints and implement clear rules and guidance that prohibit and sanction political interference in the complaints process;
- Publish a comprehensive policy and procedure, setting out how antisemitism complaints will be handled and how decisions on them will be made;
- Commission and provide education and practical training for all individuals involved in the antisemitism complaints process; and
- Develop all education and training programmes on antisemitism in consultation with Jewish stakeholders.
Will the Party be accepting these recommendations?
Yes. The leadership is committed to implementing all of the EHRC’s recommendation in full and as quickly as possible.
What is the EHRC?
- The Equality and Human Rights Commission (the EHRC) monitors human rights, protecting equality across 9 grounds: age, disability, sex, race, religion and belief, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.
- The EHRC is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Cabinet Office.
Does the Labour Party support the work the EHRC has done to complete its report?
- Yes, unequivocally. The investigation that the EHRC has now concluded into the Party represents a shameful day in our Party’s history. We condemn any efforts there may be to undermine the EHRC for this report.
- When the EHRC was set up by the last Labour Government to tackle discrimination, promote equality and protect human rights, it would never have occurred to anyone involved that one day, the Labour Party would itself be investigated for breaching the equality legislation that a Labour Government had introduced.
- The Party is thankful to the entire EHRC team for their comprehensive, rigorous and thoroughly professional report.
Applicability of the EHRC’s report beyond the Labour Party
- In their report, the EHRC makes clear that their recommendations “provide a foundation to assist all politicians and political leaders in adhering to equality law, which still protecting freedom of expression”.
- They go on to say that “politicians on all sides have a responsibility to set standards for our public life and to lead the way in challenging racism in all its form”.
- We do not shy away from the fact that this report is into the Labour Party.
- However, we share the EHRC’s ambition and call on all politicians and political leaders to adhere to these common values of tolerance, understanding and mutual respect.
The Forde Inquiry
Does the publication of the EHRC’s report affect the work of the Forde Inquiry?
- The work of the Forde Inquiry – which is independent of the Labour Party – continues.
- The terms of reference of the Forde Inquiry require the independent panel to look into the circumstances and contents of the leaked report. This includes the truth or otherwise of the most significant allegations (which includes antisemitism, racism and misogyny).
- The publication of the EHRC’s report will, therefore, represent an important component for the Forde Inquiry to consider. However, as the Forde Inquiry is independent of the Party, it will be for them to consider the most appropriate way to reflect on the EHRC’s report.