1.The Conduct Committee has considered a report by the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards (“the Commissioner”) on four separate complaints made about Lord Maginnis of Drumglass under the provisions of the Code dealing with bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct.
2.The procedure in cases such as this is set out in the Guide to the Code of Conduct. Under this procedure, the Commissioner investigates allegations against members. If she finds that a member has breached the Code of Conduct, she recommends an appropriate sanction for the Conduct Committee to consider. The member may appeal to the Committee against the Commissioner’s findings and/or sanction. Lord Maginnis did appeal and the Committee has considered his written appeal against the Commissioner’s findings and heard from him orally. This report sets out our findings.
3.This report relates to bullying, and to harassment associated with the protected characteristic of sexual orientation. The report includes language that is offensive and homophobic and may be upsetting to many readers.
4.The complaints are set out in detail in the Commissioner’s report. The first two complaints relate to an incident on 7 January 2020. Christian Bombolo, a parliamentary security officer, reported that Lord Maginnis had been verbally abusive when asked to produce his parliamentary security pass in order to enter the parliamentary estate. The following day Lord Maginnis spoke to a journalist about the incident and was reported to have referred to Mr Bombolo using disrespectful and derogatory language. Hannah Bardell MP witnessed the incident with Mr Bombolo. She complained that when she attempted to intervene she was treated rudely and aggressively by Lord Maginnis. Lord Maginnis’s remarks to the media also included comments about Ms Bardell and her complaint included the fact that during that interview Lord Maginnis used homophobic and derogatory language about her.
5.The remaining two complaints relate to incidents at meetings of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces. On 11 February 2020 Luke Pollard MP chaired a meeting of the APPG and reported that Lord Maginnis became agitated when he was not called to ask a question due to lack of time. After the meeting Lord Maginnis complained to Mr Pollard and made rude remarks about his chairing. Mr Pollard’s complaint stated that later the same night Lord Maginnis e-mailed James Gray MP (Chair of the APPG) and other parliamentarians using a homophobic subject line and including other remarks about Mr Pollard which centred on his sexual orientation and were homophobic.
6.On 4 March 2020, Toby Perkins MP, another member of the Armed Forces APPG, attended a breakfast meeting which Lord Maginnis also attended. He witnessed a heated conversation between Lord Maginnis and James Gray MP as chair of the APPG. Mr Perkins later approached Lord Maginnis to understand what was happening and learnt that Mr Gray had told Lord Maginnis he could not attend the event due to his previous conduct towards Luke Pollard MP. Mr Perkins reported that in describing the circumstances to him Lord Maginnis was homophobic, aggressive and disrespectful, including by making further homophobic remarks about Luke Pollard MP and Hannah Bardell MP.
7.The Commissioner’s investigation is set out in detail in her report. The Commissioner made the following findings:
8.The grounds for appeal are limited by the Guide to the Code of Conduct to the following:
9.Lord Maginnis disputes few of the facts contained in the Commissioner’s report. However, in his appeal, he disputed the following details of the findings about the 7 January 2020 incident: (1) that Hannah Bardell MP entered after him, and (2) that he shouted or screamed during the episode at the entrance to Parliament.
10.The Commissioner, at paragraph 211 of her report, accepts that there are some aspects of Ms Bardell’s account that are disputed and do not appear in other accounts. She nevertheless concludes that the essential aspects of Ms Bardell’s account are corroborated and that on the balance of probabilities, they are more likely than not to be true. Lord Maginnis provided no evidence to persuade the Committee that the Commissioner was plainly wrong in her findings about the January incident and the Commitee therefore dismissed this part of the appeal.
11.Lord Maginnis raised one point of process in his appeal which was that the Commissioner did not declare an association with an organisation called Out4Marriage. The implication is that the Commissioner, due to this suggested allegiance, would not have conducted the investigation fairly.
12.The Commissioner addresses this in paragraph 352 of her report. She writes that “Out4Marriage was a campaign in favour of same-sex marriage that arranged for short videos to be recorded with a variety of people to speak in favour of same-sex marriage. In 2012, as incoming President of the Law Society of England and Wales I recorded such a video.” She further writes that “My own “social and moral” views are not a relevant factor in this investigation.”
13.The Committee saw no evidence that the Commissioner’s investigation was affected by her apparent support for same-sex marriage and therefore dismissed this part of the appeal.
14.When he appeared before us, Lord Maginnis did not put forward any further arguments that the Commissioner was plainly wrong or that there were procedural irregularities, other than criticising the Commissioner and impugning the motives of those who complained about his behaviour.
15.The Commissioner recommended that Lord Maginnis be suspended from the House for a minimum of nine months; undertake bespoke behaviour change coaching and remain suspended until that is completed (if longer than nine months); and that he complete the Valuing Everyone training within one month of his return to the House. The Commissioner makes reference to a number of relevant factors in this case, including:
16.At the start of the oral appeal we made it clear to Lord Maginnis that the issue of concern was not his beliefs but his behaviour. Lord Maginnis is entitled to hold the beliefs he does and to express them freely in Parliament but in doing so he must treat others with courtesy and respect.
17.In his oral appeal Lord Maginnis showed very little insight into the impact of his behaviour on the complainants, and no remorse for the upset he had caused. To the contrary, he portrayed himself as a victim of a conspiracy by people who disapproved of his views, and insisted that all his conduct had been provoked. He also continued to refer to the complainants in a disobliging and sometimes offensive manner.
18.Against this background, the Committee was particularly keen to understand whether bespoke behaviour change coaching was likely to have any effect given the behaviour of Lord Maginnis during the course of the Commissioner’s investigation. During his oral appeal we asked Lord Maginnis whether he would be willing to attend and engage with such coaching. He initially said that he would, but it became clear later on that he had envisaged a single, one-off training session rather than a course of bespoke behaviour change coaching, which he was not minded to undertake. Neither was Lord Maginnis willing to contemplate accepting a suspension from the House.
19.The Committee discussed at length whether there was any prospect of Lord Maginnis changing his behaviour so as to avoid conduct and statements in relation to others in the course of his Parliamentary activities of the unacceptable nature which the Commissioner has found. If there is no such prospect, then we believe that it would be inappropriate for him to return to the House because it would only be a matter of time before he subjected members of the parliamentary community to the type of unacceptable behaviour outlined in this report. We therefore considered whether he should be immediately expelled from the House.
20.On balance, we concluded that it would be disproportionate to recommend that Lord Maginnis be expelled. While the behaviour complained about is clearly unacceptable he should have the opportunity to engage with the coaching and improve his behaviour towards others. He will therefore be given this opportunity but we endorse the Commissioner’s recommendation that he should at least be suspended from the House until he seizes it.
21.The Committee further concluded in this connection that:
(a)Given the lack of insight into the impact of his behaviour shown during his oral appeal and the absence of remorse, the proposed minimum suspension of nine months should be increased. We therefore propose that the term of suspension should be doubled to a minimum of 18 months.
(b)It will be appropriate to see evidence of insight and behaviour change before any suspension should end. At the end of the 18 month period, the Committee should therefore review whether Lord Maginnis has engaged and shown a willingness to treat people more respectfully. In doing this we will communicate with Lord Maginnis and the behaviour change training providers. We would also hope and expect that Lord Maginnis would by that time feel able and wish to write to the four complainants in a way reflecting an understanding of and regret for the upset which conduct and words of the nature found by the Commissioner causes; and we would take into account whether this had occurred. If satisfied that Lord Maginnis had gained insight into why his behaviour was unacceptable and had shown a willingness and capacity to change then we would certify that his suspension should end and the House would be notified accordingly.
22.We therefore recommend that Lord Maginnis of Drumglass be suspended from the service of the House for a period of at least 18 months and until he has successfully completed a designated course of bespoke behaviour change training and coaching. At the end of this period the Conduct Committee will consider whether it is appropriate to end the suspension. This will happen if Lord Maginnis attends and engages appropriately with the designated bespoke behaviour change training and coaching to address his behaviour and its effects on others. If his bespoke behaviour change training and coaching takes longer than 18 months, we recommend that Lord Maginnis remains suspended unless or until the Committee confirms that he has completed the training and demonstrated a capacity for change.
23.Lord Maginnis has not yet completed the Valuing Everyone training that all members are required to attend, and we stipulate that he must do so at the latest within one month of his return to the House, if his suspension is lifted. If he does not do this then he will be in breach of paragraph 170 of the Guide to the Code and we will consider a further sanction.