Exclusive: Forde Report cannot be shared yet, inquiry chair tells NEC members

Sienna Rodgers

Martin Forde QC has sent a letter to members of Labour’s ruling body today telling them that his report will not be delivered as promised at the meeting on Tuesday but is “largely completed”, LabourList can reveal.

“It is with profound regret and sincere apologies that I write to inform you, the national executive committee, the members and affiliates, that it will not be possible to deliver the Forde Inquiry Report… on 25 January 2022.

“The report is, however, largely completed and we hope to be in a position to deliver it next month. We have been working extremely hard to ensure our recommendations are clear, cogent and workable,” Forde’s letter reads.

Labour’s national executive committee members were assured at their last full meeting in November that they could expect a visit by the chair of the Forde Inquiry and for the report itself to be shared at the January meeting.

In his letter, Forde describes speculation about the reasons for the repeated delays as “ill-informed” and states that the long wait “has not been caused by any political interference in the drafting of the report or its recommendations”.

The QC has told Labour NEC members that the report has only been shared with the panel – three Labour peers, Debbie Wilcox, Larry Whitty and Ruth Lister – and the secretariat of the inquiry.

Exclusive: LabourList’s copy of the letter sent to NEC members today

The Forde Report is the result of an inquiry looking into a highly controversial internal Labour report that was leaked online in 2020. It explored Labour’s handling of antisemitism complaints and made allegations about former party staff.

Written by party staff amid the Equality and Human Rights Commission probe into Labour antisemitism, but not ultimately sent to the EHRC, the report denied that antisemitism cases were treated differently by the party than other cases.

Labour’s NEC decided in April 2020 that the scope of the Forde inquiry would cover: the allegations contained in the report; its commissioning and how it was put into the public domain; the structure, culture and practices of the party.

The Forde Inquiry was originally set to conclude in July 2020, but this timescale was described by Forde as “impractical”. It then aimed to deliver the report “by the end of 2020”, which was later changed to “early in 2021”.

In February 2021, nine Black Labour MPs – including Marsha de Cordova who was a shadow cabinet member at the time – said they were “disappointed and seriously concerned” with the indefinite delay of the Forde Inquiry.

The group of MPs wrote that the “abuse contained within the report and the issues it seeks to address are incredibly serious and must be part of our attempts to ensure the Labour party is an inclusive and tolerant place”.

The NEC was then told in July 2021 that parts of it – those not relating to the same leak being investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office – would be “released by the autumn”. This did not happen.

Asked today whether their investigation ICO is complete and what the findings were, the ICO told LabourList: “Our investigation is ongoing and we have nothing further to add at this time.”

LabourList has contacted the Forde Inquiry for further information.

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