New Falkirk twist: Now Labour refuse to commit to pass evidence of law-breaking to the police

by Atul Hatwal

Another day, another Falkirk West farrago. Labour has now managed to tie itself in knots over what to do with evidence of illegal activities, uncovered as a result of the party’s inquiries.

The current position is that Labour will not commit to handing over any evidence of suspected law-breaking to the police or relevant authorities.

To recap, this sorry affair was kicked off when local Unite members complained to the party about being recruited into Labour without their knowledge.

In late May, the Sunday Herald carried details of one of the letters of complaint, originally sent in March, that ultimately triggered the NEC inquiry,

“Myself and two family members have been enrolled by Unite…I or my family did not fill in or sign any forms and wish to know what information the party holds about my family… I have concerns as to the way Unite in Falkirk are recruiting party members.”

On this basis, two laws appear to have been broken – the 1998 Data Protection Act and the 2006 Fraud Act.

Just over a month ago Uncut reported that angry members in Falkirk West were considering reporting Unite to the Information Commissioner because of a breach of their data protection rights.

Under the terms of the Act, each individual must have agreed before their personal details are passed to a different organisation.

At the point where Unite members’ personal details were registered with the Labour party, without their consent being first granted, the law will have been broken.

Then, yesterday Uncut reported on the likelihood of a breach of the Fraud Act. Whoever completed the bogus applications and validated them would have contravened section 2 of the Act under the terms of “false misrepresentation”

Submitting completed forms to the Labour party, without the new members’ consent, would have constituted false misrepresentation.

Two laws, two breaches. One to do with peoples’ rights over their personal information, the other with the act of someone deliberately falsifying membership forms.

In both cases, Uncut has received legal guidance that it is almost certain that the laws have been broken.

In the course of the party’s investigations, evidence will have been uncovered that substantiated the initial complaints. Otherwise, why did the party decide to bar Falkirk West members from taking part who joined later than March 12 2012?

Yesterday afternoon, Uncut spoke to a senior party spokesperson to ask what was to be done with the evidence uncovered, given the likely breaches of law.

The response was, to use Unite’s favoured term of description for the inquiry process, Kafkaesque.

In reply to Uncut’s query as to whether evidence of suspected illegality would be passed on to the relevant authorities, the spokesman stated,

“That’s a hypothetical question. I’ve seen the report and haven’t seen anything to suggest any illegality.”

To most people it might seem odd that the legal implications of a high profile case such as this would be left to a party spin doctor rather than a legal adviser. But that is the position.

The spokesman went on to comment more generally: “If anyone has evidence of illegality they should give that evidence to the police.”

A-ha! Common sense. Uncut attempted to clarify, “So, that presumably includes the party officials involved in the Falkirk West investigations?”

To which came the response, “That’s a hypothetical question. I’ve seen the report and haven’t seen anything to suggest any illegality.”


After going round the same illogical loop a few times, there was no further progress to be made.

It leaves the Labour party with this position: in general, people who find evidence of illegality should definitely hand it in to the police, unless of course they work for the Labour party on the Falkirk West inquiry, in which case, everything is hypothetical and no commitment can be made to pass on anything to the relevant authorities.

This isn’t the spokesperson’s fault. He gave the line given to him. This nonsense arises because no-one in the party has thought beyond the immediate politics of closing this fiasco down, to understand the legal position.

Capital offences will not have been committed in Falkirk West, but nevertheless laws very likely have been broken.

In the case of both the Fraud Act and Data Protection Act, these are laws that were passed by the last Labour government for a reason.

Laws that a political party which aspires to government should respect; not bend or ignore just because they are politically inconvenient.

Rather than continue to obfuscate, there are two actions that the party urgently needs to take to extricate itself from the legal mess it finds itself in.

First, as a point of principle, if the party ever has any evidence of suspected law-breaking, it should make it clear that this will always be passed to the relevant authorities.

If the Labour party is happy to withhold evidence of illegality, even for comparatively minor offences, what sort of precedent does that set?

Second, as a point of practice, the Labour party’s legal counsel – not a spin doctor – should review the Falkirk West evidence to ascertain whether any laws are likely to have been broken.

If there is any suspicion of illegality the evidence must be passed to the police, or relevant authorities (for example, in the case of the Data Protection Act, the Information Commissioner).

They, not party officials, can then make a judgement as to whether further action is necessary.

None of this should be difficult. It should be standard practice for any inquiry where laws may have been broken. What does it say about the Labour party that it is not?

Atul Hatwal is editor at Uncut

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15 Responses to “New Falkirk twist: Now Labour refuse to commit to pass evidence of law-breaking to the police”

  1. Clr Ralph baldwin says:

    Perverting the course of justice?

  2. Danny says:

    Maybe, just maybe, it suggests that they have seen the report and not seen any evidence of illegality?

    It’s quite clear you’re anti-union, but is an article a day peddling the same point really necessary? I’d by the Daily Mail if I wanted to read articles like this.

  3. Nick says:

    Now when you’re reading up about the 2006 fraud act, remember that to not report the pensions debts and to induce people to make contributions to their state pension, is also fraud.

    Sections 1-5 if you want to go an check.

    Oh dear, worried about infiltration, couldn’t give a sod about people’s pensions.

  4. Ex-labour says:

    Perhaps a formal complaint to the police by the people who did not sign up to the party?

    The Labour leafership are just trying to protect certain members of the Labour Party and keep their main funder on board at the same time. It stinks and dithering Milibean is doing nothing … usual.

  5. Ian Smart says:

    Eh, the 2006 Fraud Act is a piece pf legislation applying only to England & Wales so no matter what might or might not have happened it cannot have been contravened.

  6. McCurry says:

    @Atul, Tom Watson has gone. Shame, he used to write on this blog. But it looks like it is all his own fault.

    @Ian Smart, Fraud goes back to common law, ie before paper and pen. The recent act was just an update. As I said before, I don’t expect the police to want to get involved in this. They will be mindful of the complex public interest question and would probably want the evidential cooperation of the Labour Party, and it’s certainly not in the party’s interests to have this issue become bigger than it is.

  7. bob says:

    Ian Smart: Yes, but the HQ is in London, so available to the Met and Falkirk was suspended from the London HQ.

  8. McCurry says:

    @bob It would be a Scotland matter as that’s where it is alleged. But the last time the police went after Labour people was Cash for Honours, and the officer behind that now works in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps as a result.
    The police aren’t going to want to be involved in this without a very strong public interest argument and we shouldn’t be making it.

  9. southern voter says:

    There is a problem with PPC selections.The party in the commons has become more elite and out of touch with ordinary working people.
    Working class candidates who have experienced what is like to have a bad boss,insecure employment,threat of not being able to pay all the bills at the end of the month are being frozen out of the party.
    It is right for trade unions to recruit more trade unionists as members to counterbalance the emergence of the professional elite who run all three parties.
    However trade unions must recruit in a manner which is not in conflict of the law and respects the rules of the labour party.

  10. Danny says:

    The reason why some people at Unite and other unions feel that they have to initiate these types of practices upset me more than the practices themselves.

    As southern voter has said, the PLP has become so appalling out of touch with voters and the House of Commons has become packed with a cliquey elite and if left to the Labour Party, the status quo will continue.

    Jobs for the boys (and girls). The lickspittle careerists are the ones the Labour Party want as candidates and should anyone try to interrupt the implementation of these Westminster-obsessed ignoramus’ then bam, consider yourself on special measures.

  11. Hetro Metrosexual says:

    Fraud Act 2006 applies in England and Wales not Scotland.

  12. bob says:

    McCurry: If i remember correctly the reason it went nowhere was that Blair refused to be interviewed under caution!

  13. Robert says:

    It does sound like somebody at Unite has been very silly and might end up in trouble with the police. However, Labour Uncut should try to hide how much you are enjoying this! It is still a minor issue that most voters will not care about.

  14. bob says:

    Robert: Minor issue, ha, attempts to potentially subvert democracy and commit fraud. It’s not a ‘minor’ thing, you’d soon be on the ramparts screaming about democracy if the conservative party was involved.

  15. Robert says:

    Bob, I honestly would not care if it involved the Conservative Party. Why should I care about a party that I have no intention of ever voting for?

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