Peer sanctioned over sexual harassment claims given more ‘behaviour training’ after fresh complaints of unwanted touching
Lord Stone of Blackheath was accused of unwarned touching and making inappropriate personal remarks (Parliament.UK)
A peer suspended by Labour over sexual harassment allegations will have to undergo further "bespoke training and behaviour coaching sessions” after more complaints were made against him.
Lord Stone of Blackheath was investigated by the Lords Commissioner for Standards, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, after he was accused of unwanted touching and making inappropriate personal remarks about the appearance of female staff.
She found the ex-Marks and Spencer boss broke the code of conduct for the upper chamber a second time, with a conduct committee warning he could be kicked out if it happens again.
Ms Scott-Moncrieff first began investigating the peer in 2019, and in October last year upheld four complaints he harassed female staff and made transphobic comments.
She recommended Lord Stone, who also repeatedly used the racial slur "n****r" in his evidence to her, “take part in a course of bespoke training and behaviour change coaching” for each of the offences.
After that decision the two further complaints by staff members were made, both of which took place in the Palace of Westminster.
The first offence relates to an open day in the House of Lords, where Baron Stone spoke to the complainant - known as CD - about the Parliamentary Behaviour Code.
The 77-year-old is said to have repeatedly touched her arm, then talked about her “wearing of religious clothing and about other women’s modes of dress”.
She told the investigation the incident had made her feel angry he felt “he had the permission/right/autonomy to touch me”, and left her feeling “extremely uncomfortable when I have found myself around him again, in lifts, corridors, cafeterias etc”.
In response Lord Stone said he was “very sorry my comments have been giving offence to people” and tried to explained he was trying to make a point about the behaviour code, having been reprimanded by the Clerk of the Parliaments for being too “tactile”.
The second complaint was from a young woman known as GH who had met Lord Stone at a dinner, where he offered to give her a tour of Parliament.
She said he then “greeted her in an overfamiliar manner, kissing her on both cheeks near her mouth, and repeatedly touched her arms and her waist”, as well as making comments about her physical appearance.
The victim said she “was incredibly disturbed by what had happened”, telling the investigation “this still troubles me today, over a year later.”
Lord Stone said he was “upset by the inference that [his] behaviour toward GH was anything other than to try and assist”.
And while he accepted “her account is factually accurate” the peer insisted “the connotations of inappropriate behaviour that she makes are wholly inaccurate and seem to me be the product of her imagination”.
But Ms Scott-Moncrieff found that in both cases his “behaviour met the criteria for harassment”, however as the alleged conduct occurred before the Commissioner’s original report she did not feel it showed the training had not worked, and therefore “an escalation in sanction would not be appropriate”.
The Lords Conduct Committee said it supports Ms Scott-Moncrieff's recommendation, but added: "We have also made clear that if Lord Stone were to commit further similar breaches of the code in the future, the committee would be inclined to apply a much more severe sanction.”
And they said making him do more training “should in no way be seen as us downplaying the seriousness of this behaviour”.
One of the complainants had called for the peer to have his access to areas of the parliamentary estate restricted given "there is a clear pattern of unacceptable behaviour”.
But the committee said while it has “considerable sympathy with this request” they believe it “would be a disproportionate sanction at this stage”.