Labour’s ruling body met this afternoon and agreed the terms of reference of the independent investigation announced by the leadership into the recently leaked report.
The national executive committee held its first meeting since Keir Starmer’s election as Labour leader via Zoom. It was attended by eight newly elected and appointed members.
It was arranged specifically to discuss the scope of the inquiry that was commissioned last week after a document on Labour’s handling of antisemitism was made public.
After the NEC meeting, a Labour spokesperson said: “The national executive committee has today agreed the terms of reference for the independent investigation into the circumstances, contents and release of an internal report.
“The NEC will meet again in due course to agree the individuals who will be appointed to lead the investigation.”
It is understood that the terms of reference will be published in full shortly – once amendments that were accepted during the NEC meeting have been taken into account.
The NEC agreed today that the investigation into the leaked report, which will be led by an as yet unknown independent investigator, should conclude with its own report being published by mid-July.
There have been concerns raised by activists particularly on the left of the party that the probe could be used to “kick the report into the long grass” and prioritise the leaking of the report over its contents.
But, according to LabourList sources, during the meeting it was made clear by Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner that the inquiry does not preclude disciplinary action by the party.
One source said the new leadership team was not trying to discourage such action from being taken by the party in line with normal processes, and in fact “they’re encouraged” to do so.
It is not expected that the newly elected leaders would comment on specific cases that should be brought forward, particularly as both are in favour of introducing an independent complaints system.
NEC youth representative Lara McNeill tweeted after the meeting: “This investigation does not stop the party taking disciplinary action. We will chase this up with the general secretary”.
Commenting after the meeting, a Momentum spokesperson said: “We welcome Keir Starmer’s commitment to disciplinary action against people named in the report.”
LabourList understands that several amendments were passed by the NEC, including one moved by Rayner that referred to the offer of whistleblower protections.
On this point, a Momentum spokesperson added: “We also welcome the guarantees for whistleblowers that have been enshrined in the terms of reference. While the report should not have been leaked unredacted, Labour is Britain’s largest political party and the contents were clearly in the public interest.
“Labour’s half a million members deserved to know what was happening at the top of their party, and those involved in bringing these actions to light must not be penalised.”
LabourList understands, however, that the whistleblower amendment has been interpreted by others as protecting former staffers who act as witnesses in the investigation.
Sources say the independent investigation will not focus on the leaking of the report in terms of identifying the leaker(s), though how and why the leak occurred will be considered.
LabourList was told by well-placed sources that:
- An amendment to the terms of reference was accepted that reordered the words so that the content of the report is listed as the first subject being looked into by the inquiry.
- Some had pointed out that the original statement implied an order of priorities that put the commissioning of the report ahead of its contents. According to NEC sources, this view was taken into account and the wording changed as a result.
- An amendment was accepted that allowed the inquiry to raise issues about structures but clarified that any structural changes remain under the remit of conference and the NEC.
- Ann Henderson moved an amendment, which was then amended by Jon Lansman and passed by the NEC, to specifically allude to ‘discriminatory behaviour’ in the terms of reference.
- Rayner proposed a change to clarify and ensure that the inquiry was reporting back to the NEC rather than the party leadership, and that its report would be made fit for publication.
While there were arguments between NEC members during the meeting, and votes were mostly along factional lines, LabourList understands that it was not an acrimonious one overall.
LabourList will be publishing the full terms of reference once due diligence has been completed – with amendments included – and they are released.