Labour find themselves in yet another antisemitism row — this time over the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to stop former staffers revealing details of how the party has handled complaints.
At least one ex-official has received a letter from Labour’s lawyers alleging that they have breached the terms of their NDA.
The shadow chancellor John McDonnell defended the move, telling the BBC: “What we’re trying to do is remind [ex-employees] of their confidentiality agreement”.
NDAs are often used by companies to prevent outgoing staff revealing commercially sensitive information.
But the fact that Labour use NDAs that cover their handling of antisemitism and harassment cases might come as a surprise to anyone who’s followed the party’s policy on gagging orders.
Here are eight official statements that senior Labour figures have made in the last two years condemning the use of confidentiality agreements.
Jeremy Corbyn: Labour will outlaw NDAs that prevent discrimination being revealed
“Jeremy Corbyn will commit the next Labour government to:
Legislating to prevent making any contractual clauses (NDAs) which stop disclosure of future discrimination, harassment or victimisation”
That’s from a Labour party press release trailing a “package of workplace policies for hospitality workers” on 10 June 2018.
Shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, reiterated the commitment in a tweet that day. Mr Corbyn made the announcement himself in a speech to the Bakers’ Union Conference in Southport three days later.
That summer, Mr Corbyn delivered his “Alternative MacTaggart Lecture”, asserting:
“It is simply not acceptable for corporate executives to hide behind the excuse of commercial confidentiality when they are meant to be providing […] a public service”
Shadow home secretary: Windrush NDAs ‘totally unacceptable’
In August 2018, Diane Abbott, “responding to reports that the government has imposed non-disclosure agreements on Windrush citizens in return for compensation” said:
“It is totally unacceptable for the Home Office to impose non-disclosure agreements and gag those who have suffered at the hands of the hostile environment in order to cover up the true scale of the Windrush scandal”
Shadow work and pensions secretary: Universal Credit gagging clauses ‘utterly unacceptable’ and ‘undemocratic’
According to a Labour press release, Margaret Greenwood was “responding to a report in the Times that the [Department for Work and Pensions] incorporated gagging clauses into contracts”. She said:
“Esther McVey must immediately announce that she will put an end to these undemocratic gagging clauses and make clear that they will not be enforced. You cannot contract-out of compassion or free speech”
Shadow equalities secretary and Labour chair on Philip Green
After it was revealed that Philip Green was the businessman whose injunction prevented the Telegraph publishing allegations against him, Labour’s shadow women and equalities secretary, Dawn Butler, said in October 2018:
“NDAs should never be used to suppress allegations of criminal behaviour. If the current law doesn’t protect the voices of survivors, the next Labour government will legislate to do so”
In February 2019, the Labour party chairman Ian Lavery said that if the allegations against Mr Green are true, he should be “stripped of his knighthood”. In the same statement, Mr Lavery said:
“NDAs should never be used to suppress allegations of criminal behaviour so the next Labour government will review the statute book to ensure that the law protects the voices of survivors”
Shadow equalities secretary: women under NDAs ‘live in fear of coming forward’
Ms Butler tweeted in February 2018:
“[The government] must also act to protect women bound by NDAs who live in fear of coming forward. Women need protection in the workplace and this government must take action”
Shadow equalities secretary: banning NDAs “essential” for transparency and access to justice
Responding to recommendations from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission in March 2018, Ms Butler said:
“Labour welcomes the EHRC’s recommendations to protect employees from sexual harassment at work. Its call for the Government to prevent employers from using non-disclosure agreements is essential to ensuring greater transparency and access to justice”