Labour hands Falkirk report to the police: what laws could Unite have broken?

If the allegation that the union signed up members to Labour without their knowledge or consent is proven, it could be charged with fraud.

The war between Labour and Unite has reached a new level with the announcement that the party has handed its report on the alleged irregularities in Falkirk to the police.   

So what laws could the union have broken? If the allegation that it signed up members to Labour without their knowledge or consent is proven, Unite could find itself in breach of the Data Protection Act, which requires individuals to give permission for their personal details to be passed to other organisations, and guilty of fraud by false representation. 

As the Tories have been quick to point out, Conservative MP Henry Smith wrote to Scottish police yesterday asking them to investigate whether or not the union was guilty of the latter charge. He noted: "Under Scots law, the common law offence of fraud involves a false pretence made dishonestly in order to bring about some definite practical result.

"In this instance, it may be that Unite has made a false instrument in the form of the application forms and a false declaration, with the aim of signing up members without their knowledge in order to influence the Labour Party selection process.

"In addition to this, as these applications were signed on behalf of members without their knowledge, a crime of 'uttering' may have taken place through tendering forged documents with an intention to defraud."

Labour's decision to follow suit shows that it is now determined to be seen to take all necessary action against Unite. 

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.