UK Politics

Nick Clegg says Lord Rennard must apologise to regain party whip

Nick Clegg Image copyright PA
Image caption Nick Clegg has told the chief whip and leader of the House of Lords group not to readmit Lord Rennard unless his apologises

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has said Lord Rennard should not rejoin the party's group in the House of Lords unless he apologises to female activists over allegations of sexual harassment.

An internal investigation found the claims were "broadly credible" but could be not proved beyond doubt.

Alistair Webster QC, who led the inquiry, recommended Lord Rennard apologise and change his behaviour.

Lord Rennard's legal adviser, Lord Carlile, said there was no reason to.

Former Lib Dem chief executive Lord Rennard has always denied the allegations.

'Reasonable request'

However, a number of party members have suggested that Lord Rennard's refusal to apologise brings the party into disrepute.

This is the charge that would have been levelled against him over the harassment allegations and which if upheld could have led to him being thrown out of the party.

Image copyright PA
Image caption A number of Lib Dems fear Lord Rennard's lack of apology is bringing the party into disrepute

A Liberal Democrat party spokesman said: "Nick Clegg is of the view that, as long as Lord Rennard refuses the very reasonable request from Alistair Webster QC to apologise, that it is inappropriate for him to rejoin the Liberal Democrat group in the House of Lords.

"Nick has communicated this to the chief whip and leader of the House of Lords group.

"In addition, a growing number of party members have come forward to make representations to the party that Lord Rennard's refusal to apologise in itself brings the party into disrepute.

"The Lords chief whip and leader of the House of Lords group will be discussing the matter with party HQ and will review the reinstatement of the whip on this basis."

Lord Carlile spoke to BBC Newsnight off-air about the suggestion that Lord Rennard should apologise in order to regain the party whip.

He said: "The report found there was no case to answer. Lord Rennard has always denied these allegations. It is an absurdity to require him to apologise for something he denies.

"There were four statements with some kind of complaint and about 100 putting the other side of the case. The Liberal Democrats should not pretend the case was proved - it was not considered worth sending to tribunal.

"I'm deeply shocked by this. It makes the North Korean legal system look benign compared to the Liberal Democrats. He has the support of a great number of his fellow peers."

Close discussions

Mr Clegg has said that Lord Rennard, the party's former election chief, would play no part in the 2015 campaign.

Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable said there was "frustration" that the party's rules meant Lord Rennard could not be thrown out.

Mr Cable told the BBC that Mr Clegg and Lib Dem president Tim Farron were in close discussions "seeing how we can proceed and whether our rules need revisiting".

The inquiry concluded that there was broadly credible evidence dating back several years of "behaviour which violated the personal space and autonomy of the complainants".

But Mr Webster said it was "unlikely that it could be established beyond reasonable doubt that Lord Rennard had intended to act in an indecent or sexually inappropriate way".

The party's internal disciplinary procedures require guilt to be established beyond reasonable doubt.

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