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House of Lords harassment inquiry: first response


House of Lords, bullying, harassment, inquiry, Ellenbogen report, House of Lords Commission“Bullying and harassment have no place in the House of Lords.”

In December 2018, Naomi Ellenbogen QC was appointed to conduct an inquiry into the nature and extent of bullying and harassment – including sexual harassment and any systemic behaviours – experienced by past and present members of the House of Lords and their staff, and administration staff employed by the House of Lords.

She found that over the period to which the inquiry relates:

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.

In each case, the behaviours recorded have been largely generated and fostered by the structural complexities of the organisation and its working practices.

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.

And she pointed out that staff policies and procedures will require some amendment, as will the rules and procedures applicable to members of the House of Lords and the staff whom they employ personally – and said that all amendments will be designed to allay fears that any complaint will be met with apathy and/or reprisal and to instil and maintain confidence that complaints will be properly handled.

Her report was published on 10 July 2019.

In it, she made 19 recommendations.

They appear in detail in paragraph 107 on page 67, paragraph 193 on page 108 and in section K, from page 119, of her report.

Broadly described, those recommendations are designed, first, to ensure culture change and, secondly, to enhance the options available to address inappropriate behaviour by members and staff, where it persists.

The House of Lords Commission met on 17 July for the first time since the publication of this Report and agreed some initial steps in response to the recommendations in the report.

These include:

Establishing a Steering Group made up of staff, members, and others. This Group is likely to start work in the autumn and will help ensure different voices can work together to shape the House’s response to the challenges identified in the Ellenbogen Report;

That the Lord Speaker, as Chairman of the Commission, will write to the new House of Lords Conduct Committee and ask that it take forward recommendations regarding changes to the Code of Conduct ‘without delay’; and

That all members of the Commission have agreed to take part in the House of Lords ‘Valuing Everyone’ training. The Leaders of the political parties in the Lords also committed that their frontbench colleagues would also undertake the training and have said that they would encourage other Peers in their party or group to do so. Lord Mance, Chair of the Conduct Committee, will also undertake the training.

Lord Fowler, Lord Speaker and Chairman of the House of Lords Commission, said: “Some of the behaviour exhibited by both staff and members revealed in the Ellenbogen Report is entirely unacceptable.

“It presents a challenge to the House of Lords which we are determined to meet. Everyone deserves a workplace which has high standards of behaviour and mutual respect.

“As the report says, the recommendations have not been made ‘with the intention that they nestle in the long grass’.

“In the coming weeks I, together with the Senior Deputy Speaker, Lord McFall of Alcluith, will be meeting both members and staff to hear their reaction to the report.

“Bullying and harassment have no place in the House of Lords and we will work with the Administration to make things better.”

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