Chakrabarti inquiry - Page 18

5 CLEAR AND TRANSPARENT COMPLIANCE PROCEDURES FOR DEALING WITH ALLEGATIONS One thing has been clear from the testimony and documentary evidence to my Inquiry. As with other major British political parties, there is a lack of clarity and confidence in current disciplinary procedures from all sides of the Party, including on the part of those who have complained and been complained against. Whilst my remit is racism, I believe that the recommendations that I make here are of wider applicability to all aspects of discipline and to the relationship between the membership, elected and staff structures of the Party apparatus. Party staff have often been in an invidious position due to a lack of appropriate expertise, sufficient resources and clarity in both practice and perception as to who is ultimately responsible and accountable for discipline within the Party and how those powers are to be exercised. In any democratic political party, discipline ultimately rests with those elected to deal with that function. Labour Party staff (whether at regional or national level) are currently between "a rock and a hard place" (however they act or do not act), and are subject to fierce and sometimes personal criticism, with (understandably and necessarily) no right of reply. It should also be remembered that the Party's membership has enjoyed a significant increase in recent times. This is exciting and welcome but brings an inevitable need for additional resources to serve that larger number. The following recommendations are as much to make the working lives of staff easier as to improve confidence in the system and values which they serve. General Counsel The General Secretary of the Labour Party has an incredibly important and difficult job. He has responsibility for hundreds of paid staff around the country, a significant if inadequate budget (compared to other parties) and governance and secretarial responsibilities in relation to the Party's elected committees. This role is under-supported, not least for the lack of a single in-house lawyer, notwithstanding his responsibilities for electoral law, data protection and aspects of the disciplinary process of which I am writing now. I understand, appreciate and welcome the fact that many Labour-leaning lawyers in private practice have offered their services on a range of complex issues either pro bono or for a fee over the years. However, testimony to my Inquiry reveals the sheer inadequacy of the in-house resources in an organisation understandably primarily equipped for political campaigning rather than due process, whether at regional or national level. Whilst I understand the continuing need to engage a number of varying private practice lawyers to advise on various compliance and other legal issues, it is vital in my view, that there is internal legal expertise, not least to give urgent advice, achieve consistency and take responsibility for instructing a range of external lawyers (thus avoiding either favouritism or capture) where appropriate. - I recommend the urgent appointment of a General Counsel or other staff lawyer to the Labour Party to give initial advice, including and in particular on disciplinary matters and to take responsibility for instructing external lawyers as appropriate. I also recommend further additional expert staff (quite possibly legally or part legally qualified), trained and equipped to work on matters of discipline. They could either work to the General Counsel directly or in the 15