UK parliament committee keeps Labour Party reference in disinformation report

The government has accused the committee of wilfully disregarded its representations and chose to base its claims on unnamed sources

The government  expressed disappointment at the fact that the report's final draft still states that representatives of the SCL Group met with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat before 2013
The government expressed disappointment at the fact that the report's final draft still states that representatives of the SCL Group met with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat before 2013

A reference to Malta in a House of Commons report on ‘Disinformation and fake news’, has been retained in the report’s final draft, despite objections by the Maltese government.

An interim report by the House of Commons' Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee had previously stated that the committee had evidence to show that Henley and Partners CEO Chris Kalin was meeting representatives from both the Nationalist and Labour parties prior to the 2013 general election and that the company had been advising the Labour Party for years before that.

The government had responded, saying it was ironic that a report on fake news also contained false and unsubstantiated information. A government statement had noted that the report cited a Manuel Delia blogpost, adding that the blog made “false assumptions and links facts  using only supposition and irresponsible guesswork to spread malicious gossip”.

A government spokesperson had also rejected claims that the Labour Party had met anyone from Cambridge Analytica, anyone claiming to be its representative or other similar companies.

READ MORE: Government, PN deny being approached by Cambridge Analytica

However, despite the government calling on committee to “rectify” the “serious error”, the final report has retained the reference, citing “confidential documents shown to the committee”.   

“Following publication of our Interim Report, both the High Commissioner of  Malta and the Chelgate PR company wrote to the Committee, denying statements…that the Malta Labour Party had had dealings with the SCL Group ‘for several years before the 2013 elections’,” the final report reads.

“We understand, however, that SCL Group certainly had meetings in Malta, that Christian Kalin of Henley and Partners was introduced by SCL to Joseph Muscat in 2011, and that Christian Kalin met with both  political parties before 2013.”

There is no citation to Manuel Delia’s blog in the final report.

Government again denies allegations  

In a statement on Monday, the government said it was disappointed that the report “relied on what it describes as ‘confidential information’ claiming there was a relationship between the Prime Minister and Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL)”.

“There government of Malta denies  any claim that there was ever contact with SCL between the Government, the Labour Party in Opposition or the Prime Minister when he was Opposition Leader,” read the statement.

It added that this had been made “very clear in representations” to the committee, “which chose to base its claim on unnamed sources”.

The government went on to say that the committee had, “at no stage, supported its allegations by any evidence, nor did it afford the Maltese authorities the opportunity to respond”.

“On the contrary, willingly and wilfully it disregards representations made by the Maltese authorities in writing; thus, failing to comply with usual procedures of inviting the stakeholder involved to respond to allegations made,” the government said.  

It concluded by saying that the committee’s investigation of “such an important subject” was being “severely undermined by allowing itself to propagate misinformation on a European State by anonymous sources”.

READ MORE: Maltese government disappointed by ‘unsubstantiated information’ in UK parliament report