Martin Forde QC, the inquiry chair tasked with looking into the controversial so-called ‘Labour leaks’ report, has told general secretary David Evans that his own report is now “finalised”, LabourList can reveal.
The latest letter from Forde to Evans, shared with members of Labour’s ruling body before their meeting today, read as follows:
I am writing to inform both you and the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party (“NEC”) that the content of my Inquiry Report is finalised.
All that is still to be undertaken is detailed checking for legal and factual accuracy prior to publication. I had hoped this would have been completed by 29 March but unfortunately this will not now be possible.
The Report will then have to be signed off by myself and fellow Panel members before delivery to you and then my attendance at, and presentation, to the NEC.
I will, of course, work with you and the NEC to agree rearranged timings for submission and my formal presentation.
I apologise to you and the membership for the likely slight delay, but it is imperative that the remaining vital tasks are completed.
LabourList sources say nobody working for the party – including Evans – has yet seen the long-awaited Forde Report. Its delivery has been repeatedly delayed after first being promised almost two years ago in July 2020.
The Forde Inquiry was tasked with looking into an internal report, leaked online in April 2020, on Labour’s handling of antisemitism complaints. It was written by party staff amid the Equality and Human Rights Commission probe into Labour antisemitism.
The report in question, dated March 2020, concluded that cases were poorly handled by the party but antisemitism complaints were not treated differently. It also said the process improved under general secretary Jennie Formby.
Since the unredacted report was distributed online in April 2020, the party has been subject to legal action by people named in it – including ex-party staffers, who were initially suspended from Labour due to messages contained in the report.
The Forde Inquiry was originally set to conclude in July 2020, but the 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”.
The Forde Inquiry said in February 2021 that it had “recently been made aware” that the Information Commissioner’s Office was investigating the same leaks and its own findings could have the potential to prejudice the ICO’s work.
In January 2022, Forde sent a letter to Labour NEC members saying the Forde Report could not be shared at their meeting as promised but it was “largely completed”. The inquiry chair stressed that the delay was not down to political interference.
LabourList contacted the ICO to ask whether their investigation into the Labour leak had been completed and whether there were conclusions. The ICO said: “Our investigation is ongoing and we have nothing further to add at this time.”
LabourList asked the Forde Inquiry why the report was being promised before the ICO investigation had finished, considering that Forde told Evans in 2021 that “we consider there is a real risk that even partial disclosure of our report and findings could have the potential to prejudice the ICO’s work. As soon as its inquiries are completed, and resolved, we will provide a report.”
The Forde Inquiry claimed to LabourList that it never said the report would not be published until the ICO had completed its work as the ICO was “only one factor in the delay in publication”.