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EXCL Probe finds Labour peer guilty of harassing female staff and making transphobic comments

5 min read

A Labour peer has been suspended by the party after being found guilty of harassing four female staff and making transphobic comments by a House of Lords inquiry.

Baron Stone of Blackheath also repeatedly used the racial slur "n****r" in his evidence to the Standards Commissioner to try and defend his conduct.

An inquiry into the former Marks and Spencer boss found he was the subject of seven other complaints from female members of staff in the past year.

They were not investigated as new rules on bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct were only incorporated into the House of Lords code of conduct in April this year.

But three complaints were made in July under the updated system to the independent House of Lords Commissioner for Standards, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, plus another one in September.

Her report into his behaviour recommended Lord Stone “take part in a course of bespoke training and behaviour change coaching” for each of the offences.

He has also been suspended from the Labour Peers Group "until further notice", a party spokesman confirmed.

The 77-year-old, ennobled by Tony Blair in 1997, had insisted he had been “polite” and his behaviour was “an expression and recognition of the inter-relatedness of all humanity”.

Two of the complainants were staffing a stall in Parliament inviting people to sign a “No Bystanders” pledge about homophobic, biphobic or transphobic behaviour.

They said Lord Stone signed the pledge before returning later with a guest, pushing his way past others and saying loudly: “He wants to sign, where does he sign.

“He wants the operation, is this where he signs up for the trans operation, he wants to be trans.”

Upon seeing their reaction the peer is said to have approached one of the women and “patted her on the arm and told her he was only joking”.

In evidence he denied being transphobic and accused the women of manning the stall “rather incompetently” and exaggerating his actions.

Lord Stone said he considered himself “enlightened” about equality, adding: “I wouldn’t call somebody a ‘n****r’ in, like, in an aggressive way.

“But let us say I was at some meeting, which I often am, particularly in Israel with black people or whatever, I would say ‘we are all n****rs, I am - what do you call it - an honorary n****r’, yes.

“And they would say ‘yes, Andrew is just as n****r as we are’.

“But people feel that if you are not trans or if you are not gay, or if you are not lesbian, then you are not part of that group and therefore you can’t speak in an open way.”

Ms Scott-Moncrieff found his actions towards both women “met the criteria for harassment related to the protected characteristic of gender reassignment”.

The first complaint was from a woman who said Lord Stone stopped her when they were alone in a stairwell and “told her she was looking beautiful”.

The report said: “On seeing her reaction to his comments, he grabbed her arm to insist that, although it might be thought sexist to say so, she really did look beautiful.

“He let go of her when someone else came through the door at the bottom of the stairs.”

This incident was said to have come after a period where the peer had made increasingly personal remarks about the woman’s clothes and appearance.

She told the inquiry he “took advantage of their encounter being in a secluded spot with no-one around”, saying it left her feeling "anxious, uncomfortable and shocked”.

Lord Stone said this was his normal behaviour, and if it was misinterpreted it was because “there may be something inside them that has a problem with it, but not inside me”.

The report added: “He agreed that he had been making similar comments to [the complainant] for a while, and explained that he thought she had low self-esteem, and so liked to give her encouragement.”

But the Standards Commissioner said his behaviour “met the criteria for harassment related to the protected characteristics of age and sex”.

The final complainant told the inquiry Lord Stone had come to her desk to thank her for some work she had done before “stroking her arm for five to ten seconds”, which made her “feel really uncomfortable, angry, anxious and pinned in”.

She said he had found him “a bit creepy”, citing a time he made a “joke” to a young woman he hoped “a document relating to the Upskirting Bill would contain photos”.

But Lord Stone said he “felt that there was nothing wrong with what he had done”, and he believed it would be better if people could see “that we are all one, and if we are all one then in that case it is much better that we understand that I love you because you are part of me and we are one”.

He also said he had made the joke about the Upskirting Bill “to numerous people and it would have been sexist if he had refrained from doing so simply because the person he was addressing was a young woman”.

However Ms Scott-Moncrieff also found this behaviour to have “met the criteria for harassment”.

A Labour Lords spokesperson said: "The Chief Whip has informed Lord Stone that he is suspended from the Labour Peers Group until further notice.

"Further discussions will be had with Andrew once he has completed the training and coaching recommended by the Commissioner."

Lord Stone has been approached for comment.

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