UK lawmakers block suspension of member accused of sexual harassment

Updated: Nov 16, 2018, 09:28 IST | AFP

Peers in the House of Lords are appointed by the UK monarch on the advice of the prime minister and serve for life. Some current members inherited their titles

Representational picture
Representational picture

Britain's upper House of Lords on Thursday voted to block the suspension of a parliamentarian who allegedly tried to force a woman to sleep with him in exchange for a promotion. Lawmakers rejected the recommendations of the House of Lords committee, voting by 101 to 78 to send the case back for review following a lengthy debate, where members raised concerns over the disciplinary procedure.

The committee had called for Anthony Lester -- an 82-year-old human rights lawyer and member of the centrist Liberal Democrats party -- to receive the longest ban for a British lawmaker since at least World War II. The vote came as sexual harassment allegations swirled over both houses of parliament. An October report into the House of Commons found that a culture of bullying and inappropriate sexual behaviour "thrives" among members of the lower chamber.

The House of Lords committee determined that Lester violated the code of conduct by "sexually harassing the complainant and offering her corrupt inducements to sleep with him". A 134-page investigation by the committee said Lester told his victim: "If you sleep with me I will make you a baroness within a year." The woman also told the committee Lester said that "if I did not (sleep with him) he would see to it I never had a seat in the House of Lords and warned me there would be other repercussions."

The woman turned Lester down. He "then ceased to invite the complainant to attend relevant meetings," the committee report said. The committee recommended barring Lester until June 2022. The accused peer responded to the vote by saying he "looks forward to restoring my reputation". Peers in the House of Lords are appointed by the UK monarch on the advice of the prime minister and serve for life. Some current members inherited their titles.

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