Ex-Lib Dem peer hit with longest-ever ban over claim he offered woman a peerage to sleep with him

Posted On: 
12th November 2018

A former Liberal Democrat peer could be hit with Parliament's longest-ever suspension over claims he tried to get a woman to have sex with him in return for getting her into the House of Lords.

The Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee said the ban would be the "longest suspension of a Member of either House since at least the end of World War".
Credit: 
Sky News

The Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee recommended that Lord Lester of Herne Hill be given a near-five-year ban from the upper chamber after it found he had offered a woman "corrupt inducements to sleep with him".

The move came after a shocking report by Parliament's Commissioner for Standards revealed claims that the Lib Dem Peer - who resigned as a human rights spokesperson and was suspended from the party earlier this year - told his complainant: "If you sleep with me I will make you a Baroness within a year".

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Lord Lester said the allegations were "completely untrue".

The Committee recommended he be banned from the upper chamber until June 2022, and said the sanction, if approved in a vote later this week, would represent the "longest suspension of a Member of either House since at least the end of World War".

According to the Standards Commissioner's report, the woman - referred to as a "well-known" expert in her field - was groped by the Lib Dem peer on her journey home from a campaign meeting after he invited her to stay with him and his wife.

Her testimony alleges that Lord Lester then showed her to her bedroom before saying "it was not far from his bedroom".

She added: "I went into my bedroom and immediately placed the chair under the door; I felt afraid, recalling what had happened in the car."

The accuser, who says she slept "fully clothed" that night, told the Commissioner that the peer repeatedly put his arms around her waist in the kitchen the following morning, prompting her to "force" him away.

"He pursued me around the kitchen and I pleaded with him to stop," she added. "Once he stopped, I told him that I wished to leave."

It is claimed that the Lib Dem peer later made a string of "other inappropriate sexual comments" in the House of Lords and told her: "If you sleep with me I will make you a Baroness within a year."

"He even spelt it out putting my surname in, and asked me how that sounded," she told the inquiry.

When the complainant rejected the offer, the peer is said to have told her he would "see to it that I never had a seat in the House of Lords and warned me that there would be other repercussions" - before allegedly freezing her out of further meetings.

"He said that if I was a 'good girl' and did what he was asking, I would be in the House of Lords and could visit his house abroad with him," she added.

In a statement the peer said: "These allegations are completely untrue.

He added: "I produced evidence which clearly demonstrated that what I was said to have done 12 years ago did not happen.

"Independent counsel who previously advised the Committee on its procedures provided an advice which concluded that the investigation was flawed.

"I regret the Committee’s conclusions in the light of these materials. There has to be a fair process for investigating sexual harassment claims in Parliament.

"Parliament is supposed to be a bastion of the rule of law but has ignored calls to reform this procedure properly for 20 years. I hope to be judged by my work over decades for gender equality, race relations and free speech.”

'CORRUPT INDUCEMENT'

The watchdog found that Lord Lester had "persisted in unwanted touching, even when the complainant clearly objected", and had "persisted in making sexual comments and offers to her, even after she clearly objected".

It said he had taken "advantage of her being alone in his house to harass her" and, in "offering her a corrupt inducement" had "undermined the reputation and integrity of the House of Lords".

It meanwhile found that he had "abused his power" by warning her of "consequences if she did not accept his offer".

The Lords Committee said: "The Commissioner investigated Lord Lester following a complaint from a member of the public and found that Lord Lester had breached the Code of Conduct’s requirement for Members to act on their personal honour by sexually harassing the complainant and offering her corrupt inducements to sleep with him and that this behaviour took place in the context of his Parliamentary duties."