House of Lords staff 'bullied and harassed' by peers, new report finds
House of Lords staff suffered "bullying and harassment" at the hands of peers, a damning new report has concluded.
Staff were discouraged from reporting incidents of sexual harassment and bullying because they feared "reprisals" according to a fresh inquiry into working conditions in Parliament.
The investigation by Naomi Ellenbogen QC found "known offenders" had been tolerated in the House of Lords and that a "prevailing culture" had stopped complaints from being fully investigated.
In the report, she said: "The prevailing culture and behaviours in the House of Lords, as a place of work, have not been conducive to an open and supportive culture to ensure that all those working there are treated with dignity and respect.
"Staff have bullied and harassed other staff. Members have bullied and harassed staff.
"On the whole, staff who have experienced bullying and harassment have tended not to complain, formally or otherwise, in the belief that nothing will happen and/or for fear of reprisal."
HR practices were also heavily criticised by respondents, with one comparing the disciplinary process to being like "Alice in Wonderland".
"They have proven themselves manifestly not fit for purpose," they said.
"Like Alice in Wonderland, how they deal with issues is off the wall; nothing is dealt with sensibly or logically, it is shrouded in mystery."
Instead, victims claimed they had been "dissuaded" from making formal complaints "because it would get them nowhere".
"The existence of this culture is unworthy of any institution," Ms Ellenbogen added.
Among the report's recommendations were a new compulsory training programme for both staff and peers, the appointment of a director general of the House of Lords, and the establishment of a cross-parliament HR department to handle complaints.
Responding to the report, the Lords Speaker, Lord Fowler, said he was "determined" to make the House of Lords better.
“We have already made important improvements including introducing a Parliament-wide Behaviour Code, an Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme and appointing a new Conduct Committee to which lay members will be appointed shortly, but there is still a great deal of work to do," he said.
“Everyone deserves a workplace which has high standards of behaviour and mutual respect. Bullying and harassment have no place in the House of Lords.
"This report is an important step in ensuring we, the Commission, and the House of Lords Administration, can work together to achieve that goal."
He added: “It is because we are committed to this that we asked for this inquiry to be conducted. We are determined to address the issues the report highlights and to make the House of Lords better.”