Conduct - Motion to Agree

– in the House of Lords at 12:58 pm on 20 July 2021.

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Lord Mance:

Moved by Lord Mance

That the Report from the Select Committee The conduct of Lord James of Blackheath, Lord Kalms, Lord Willoughby de Broke and Baroness Mone (3rd Report, HL Paper 36) be agreed to.

Photo of Lord Mance Lord Mance Chair, Conduct Committee, Chair, Conduct Committee

My Lords, I beg to move that the third report of the Conduct Committee be agreed to. As your Lordships are aware, and as has just been said, the House, by Standing Order 68, has decided that such a report is decided without debate, so I will confine myself to a brief introduction.

On 3 November last year, the House agreed to a recommendation from the Conduct Committee, consistent with the independent reports of Naomi Ellenbogen QC, as she was, and Alison Stanley, that all Members of the House be required to undertake Valuing Everyone training—a study course—by 1 April this year. Nearly all Members did so by the deadline.

The House recognised that some Members might, for exceptional reasons, not be in a position to undertake this. In a report on 18 May, the commissioner identified seven Members as falling within this category. She held that a further 47 Members were in breach by failing to take the course by the deadline, but she accepted sufficient remedial action, arrangements or promises made by them to undertake the course in the immediate future.

The four Members who are the subject of the present Conduct Committee report did not proffer any exceptional reason for not taking the course. Of the four, one, although in breach, then explained to the Commissioner that she was willing to undertake the course; she has now done so. A second, the noble Lord, Lord James of Blackheath, has very recently, since the Commissioner’s report was published, also agreed to undertake the course and has signed up to do it tomorrow.

The second Motion in my name before the House therefore relates only to the two remaining noble Lords, Lord Kalms and Lord Willoughby de Broke, who have not appealed the Commissioner’s finding that they breached the Code of Conduct, and have continued to refuse or fail to undertake the course. This second Motion therefore seeks to restrict their access to staff of the House and other Members of the parliamentary community, as well as facilities, until they undertake the training. The Committee believes that this is a proportionate sanction which balances the importance of protecting staff with the undoubted right of the two noble Lords to continue exercising their core parliamentary functions.

I include a further word on Standing Order 68, under which the two Motions in my name fall to be decided. The report recommending the new Standing Order was agreed in a full sitting of the House after nearly two hours of debate on 30 April 2019. Members who are the subjects of reports by the commissioner have a full right of appeal to the Conduct Committee, a right which I stress again that neither noble Lord has exercised in this case, but certain sanctions can only be imposed by the House itself on recommendation of the committee. The Standing Order was designed to promote an objective and independent process protecting complainants who cannot speak for themselves and ensuring that future complainants know that their conduct will not be debated on the Floor of the House. A similar Standing Order exists in the House of Commons.

The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, is a matter for the House. There is little that I wish to say. Standing Order 68 will apply on 12 October, as the House will be no more or less legitimate then than it is today. Delay would not change the appropriateness of the sanction but could convey an unfortunate message about the House’s willingness to enforce its own agreed code. I beg to move.