Labour’s ruling body passes rule changes mandated by EHRC ahead of conference

Sienna Rodgers

Labour’s ruling national executive committee (NEC) has passed the rule changes that were legally mandated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, allowing the proposals to be sent to party conference.

Commenting on the move, party chair Anneliese Dodds said: “We are acting decisively to ensure the Labour Party is a safe and welcoming space for the benefit of all our members.

“At a time when the Conservatives are retreating further back into the lowest form of dogwhistle politics, we are showing that Labour is moving forward as the party of equality.”

The key change to the rulebook – which will need to be approved by conference, as with all rule changes – is a new internal disciplinary process with independent oversight for cases related to protected characteristics. 18 members voted for it, eight against and one abstained.

It will apply to all complaints about antisemitism, Islamophobia, other forms of racism, sexual harassment, and discrimination on the grounds of disability, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership.

All NEC decisions on these cases under the new process will be reviewed by a member of a new independent review board (IRB) to decide whether it complies with Labour rules, the law and principles of independence.

Members of the IRB will be lawyers appointed by the general secretary. The IRB will decide whether the NEC decision has complied with the rules or contravened them, and can review any aspect of the party’s procedures.

For these types of complaints, the role of the existing national constitutional committee (NCC) will be undertaken by a newly established independent complaints board (ICB) comprising a pool of 12 members with time-limited terms.

The 12 members of the ICB will be four lawyers, four HR or regulatory experts and four party members. They will be appointed to the ICB by a ‘standing recruitment committee’, which in turn is appointed by the general secretary.

The ICB will hear any cases referred to it, as well as appeals brought under party rules, and can determine which sanctions to apply. It will function via panels of three – one from each category on the wider ICB, with the lawyer as chair.

On the new complaints system, Dodds added: “This will be the fairest, most robust process of any political party that we know of, and we are looking forward to it being fully endorsed by members at our annual conference.”

Other changes related to Labour’s EHRC action plan, which will also go to Labour conference for approval next weekend, include:

  • clarifying that members must share the values of the party, as well as conforming to its rules and policies;
  • requiring those seeking selection as candidates to undergo training; and
  • requiring all those who receive a disciplinary sanction for racism or other prejudice based on a protected characteristic to complete a course of equality and diversity training.

Labour conference is expected to approve the EHRC rule changes. LabourList understands these will be considered on Sunday afternoon to ensure there is no interference with the Jewish calendar.

These constitutional amendments were made compulsory by the equalities body after published a report on Labour antisemitism that found the party responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.

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