The conduct of Lord Maginnis of Drumglass Contents

Chapter 9: Complaint by Toby Perkins MP: account of the key facts and evidence

Mr Perkins’ complaint

269.On 4 March, Toby Perkins MP wrote to me to complain about the conduct of Lord Maginnis at a breakfast meeting hosted by the APPG on the Armed Forces. He wrote:

“I would like to make a complaint about the conduct of a member of the House of Lords, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass.

The complaint primarily concerns his conduct at a breakfast of the All Party Parliamentary group on the Armed Forces held this morning, but I believe is part of a pattern of recent homophobic incidents.

As I understand it, Lord Maginnis had been informed that he was no longer invited to attend meetings, breakfasts and dinners of the APPG following two different homophobic incidents that had occurred there, and a homophobic email that he had sent to a member previously, but not withstanding that, he attended the breakfast this morning. I was unaware of all this history when I witnessed the exchanges this morning that I am primarily complaining about. Lord Maginnis was approached by the Chair of the APPG James Gray MP and informed that he wasn’t invited and would have to leave, he quickly responded aggressively refusing to leave and implying that the Chair would have to physically remove him. He said ‘I am not going to be bullied by queers’. I was confused by this comment because the person who he was discussing it with (James Gray) wasn’t gay, but I subsequently discovered it referred to a previous incident with a gay MP, Luke Pollard.

In his continued tirade he was disparaging about the history of the Chair of the APPG himself ‘I won’t take this from someone with your history’, and of the role of reservists ‘I served in the British Army, I was not a reservist’ which is entirely against the ethos of the APPG which recognises and respects the role of all those who serve in our Armed Forces.

After he had finally refused to leave and James Gray had walked away, I asked him what it had all been about, and he said that he was being ‘bullied because he was against gay marriage’ and that he ‘wouldn’t be barred by a deviant’ which he made clear was his description of Luke Pollard, a gay MP with whom he had engaged in a run in at a previous dinner.

He referred to ‘a lesbian’ that he had previously had problems with over a pass ( I understand this is Hannah Bardell MP). He went on to say that he had been married for 60 years and that when he confronted Luke Pollard, Luke had referred to ‘his boyfriend outside’. His entire tone was unapologetically homophobic, aggressive and disrespectful, and I suspect that if it had been witnessed by the Police, may well have led to criminal charges. His behaviour in my view undoubtedly brought the Houses of Parlaiment and the APPG into disrepute.

I would ask you to investigate the issues I refer to and the previous incident at the dinner with Luke Pollard, the exchange with Hannah Bardell, and the email that he sent to officers of the APPG and I believe he may himself have copied to the Lords Commissioner for Standards, which he has been asked by the APPG to apologise for, and consider what would be a suitable sanction to ensure that members and visitors to the house can go about their business without being assailed by this sort of conduct.”

270.Mr Perkins attached to his email to me an email of complaint he had also sent to James Gray as Chairman of the APPG:

“Further to our meeting this morning, I am getting in touch to complain about the conduct and homophobia of Lord Maginnis of Drumglass at this morning’s breakfast.

I was sat across the table from where Lord Maginnis was sat when you approached him. I didn’t hear much of what you said, but understood that he was attending the breakfast without invitation. I clearly heard him say ‘I am not being bullied by queers’ and threatening to make a scene. It was clear that he was rather aggressively asserting that he was intending to stay at the breakfast despite not having an invitation and that he wanted to know who had caused him to be banned from the list. I heard him refer disparagingly towards ‘your history’ and speak disrespectfully of reservists in comparison to regular soldiers also.

After you walked away I asked him what had happened and he recounted a previous dinner at which he claimed he had been snubbed by Luke Pollard from asking a question and said that he ‘wouldn’t be barred by a deviant’ and made it clear that he disapproved of Luke’s sexuality. He referred disparagingly towards Luke’s ‘boyfriend’. And went on to refer to having been married for 60 years and that he was being ‘bullied because he was against gay marriage’. The tone of his remarks were deeply homophobic and were uncalled for. He had not been asked for an opinion on homosexuality but seemed keen to broadcast his views nonetheless.

I don’t see how it is possible for him to remain a member of the APPG when he is so willing to use offensive and discriminatory remarks towards other members and conduct himself in a way that is likely to bring the house into disrepute.

I am happy for my comments to be used in any investigations that the APPG should conduct and will also be forwarding them to the House of Lords authorities.”

271.Before completing my preliminary assessment, I also interviewed Mr Perkins. In that interview he expanded on the details in his written complaint.

272.Mr Perkins described having arrived at the breakfast meeting and sat at the table with Lord Maginnis around three seats away on the opposite side:

“James Gray approached him. I couldn’t really hear what James was saying but I could hear he was getting very aggressive. I heard James say, ‘That’s not very reasonable. I don’t think that’s a very sensible approach’, but mainly he was saying, ‘I will not be bullied by queers. I will’–I think he actually referred to other–he made other homophobic remarks two or three times, but I don’t recall of them. I was talking to other people, so I wasn’t purely watching this exchange, but it was eye-catching, so I was kind of half watching it and it was before the breakfast had started. There weren’t that many other people there. So there wasn’t a great deal else to do and it was reasonably quiet.

So he said, ‘I won’t be bullied by queers’, and then he went on about, you know, ‘You’re going to have to move me’. So James said, ‘I’m afraid you can’t stay’. He said, ‘Well, you’ll have to move me then. In fact I’d like to see that’. He was clearly kind of saying, ‘Come on then. You move me if you think I’m not going to be here’. He was saying, ‘I will make a scene. I will stand up and I will be heard by this meeting’. So I didn’t entirely know—I didn’t have any idea at that time what it was about, but I, obviously, got a strong sense of his anger and desire to have a confrontation. Eventually, James sort of just kind of walked away and he was obviously angry and upset.”

273.He asked Lord Maginnis what the exchange had been about. He had heard the phrase, “‘I will not be bullied by queers’, but I wasn’t sure whether he was really aggressive or whether it was a kind of a bit of a joke or if it was a different way of using the word ‘queers’ or whatever. I didn’t really know at that stage.”

274.He said Lord Maginnis had replied:

“‘Oh I’ve had problems before. They’re trying to bully me because I was against gay marriage. There was a Luke Pollard who—he refused to take my question when I was at a dinner, and when I asked him why, he said, ‘Oh I’ve got my boyfriend outside’. He threatened me with his boyfriend’, and he said, you know, what was the phrase—I wrote it down at the time—‘I’ll not be barred from this place by a deviant’. So then he said, you know, well, ‘No, I’m totally against gay marriage. I’ve been married 60 years to a woman, you know’. I said, ‘Well, that’s by the by, but you just need to be a bit careful because the’—I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I just sort of said, you know, ‘You can have your views, but what you’re saying is it’s not going to be taken well by people’, or something along those lines. So I kind of ended the conversation there.”

275.Mr Perkins said that Lord Maginnis had also made a reference to “an exchange with a lesbian”, which Mr Perkins later understood to be a reference to Hannah Bardell.

276.We asked Mr Perkins what the impact of this conversation had had on him. He said he had found Lord Maginnis’s remarks offensive:

“it made me feel that it was a very unpleasant environment. It made me feel that it was not a safe environment for—I mean, particularly for people who were gay, but I think there is a sense to which we are all conditioned and harassed by the sense that we’re not all free to be at an event like that. So both the sort of the tone of the remarks and the content of them, I think, was upsetting. I think it was—I think he was homophobic and I think it was—would definitely be considered, you know, I did consider it intimidatory as an environment for myself and my colleagues to be in”.

Lord Maginnis’s evidence

277.Mr Scott and I carried out a preliminary assessment and concluded that it would be appropriate to investigate whether Lord Maginnis’s conduct constituted a breach of the Code of Conduct. I wrote to Mr Perkins with information about my next steps. I also wrote to Lord Maginnis on 29 April 2020, enclosing the complaint from Mr Perkins and explaining that, as a result of my preliminary assessment I had concluded that there was sufficient evidence to establish there was a prima facie case to be investigated.

278.I asked Lord Maginnis to send me a full and accurate account of the matter in question.

279.Lord Maginnis did not provide a written response so we addressed the complaint in our interview.

280.He began by saying that he had not been told he could not attend APPG events and therefore had objected to Mr Gray telling him he could not be there:

“Just to make it very clear, I did not receive any formal indication that I could not come to the breakfast. And when I came, as I do, I go in and sit down at the table before other people because — I went in, looked for my place, could not find it and he came in and said, ‘There’s no place for you’. I did not take — I am not the sort of person who takes that type of dictatorial attitude in my stride, let me put it that way. I’m too old to be dictated to.”

281.He considered that Mr Gray had acted “in an arbitrary fashion, had decided that he was going to stop me coming to the breakfast meeting without doing it formally and in a way which was accountable.”

282.He said he had previously applied to attend the breakfast and he did not consider it was the usual routine to be sent an email confirming that he would have a place.

283.With regard to Mr Perkins’ description of Lord Maginnis’s comments being “unapologetically homophobic, aggressive and disrespectful”, Lord Maginnis’s response was “[t]hat sounds fairly accurate.” He took the view that Mr Perkins’ complaint was triggered by party solidarity:

“When I saw his complaint I thought to myself, ‘Well, that’s — guys — mutual support. I would do the same for somebody in my party’.”

284.We asked Lord Maginnis whether he considered it appropriate to express his views on such personal matters to Mr Perkins in the way he did and whether he would have accepted Mr Perkins expressing views Lord Maginnis might find offensive. Lord Maginnis replied:

“Absolutely. He would not be the first one who would have done that, as far am concerned. No, absolutely. I mean, I do not know, I think of him — I have not even considered what his attitude is to the issue of homosexuality. But he is entitled — if he had an opinion, I was not aware of it. I am afraid he did not make any — I did not remember having a conversation with him.”

Mr Perkins’ evidence

285.We spoke again to Mr Perkins after having provided him with a summary of Lord Maginnis’s response to his complaint.

286.He noted that Lord Maginnis had said that he hadn’t been told he could not attend the breakfast meeting. Mr Perkins pointed out that the email from Mr Gray made it clear that he would not be welcome at APPG events without withdrawing his comments and apologising to Mr Pollard. In his view, Lord Maginnis “very deliberately turned up early knowing that he wasn’t expected to be there”.

287.He noted that Lord Maginnis made “no apology for using phrases like “deviancy” to do with Luke Pollard’s entirely legal sexuality.” He said:

“I think he makes it quite clear that whatever the rule — whatever the law of the land and whatever the rules of Parliament are, that they don’t — that he pays no heed to that and that he considered making very personal comments legitimate”.

288.He considered the fact that Lord Maginnis said he didn’t remember the conversation with him “makes it pretty clear that what I would consider to be homophobia is the way that he acts on an everyday basis and he sees no reason to alter his way of operating.”

289.Therefore, Mr Perkins thought it likely that similar situations could arise again.

290.Given that Lord Maginnis’s response to the complaint was unapologetic, Mr Perkins said that interacting with him again or being at events with him would cause him some anxiety. He said:

“it then puts other people in the position of having to uphold what I would consider to be fairly basic courtesies, and prevent people being discriminated against. It’s clear from the conversations that I’m aware of him having that I’ve witnessed and that I’ve had with him and that I’ve now read about, that he considers his homophobia to be not only an entirely legitimate and, kind of, fairly central part of his personality and his values, he actually considers it to be a part of his values but that he’s insistent that he should share that opinion with other people regardless of whether they show any desire or interest to have a discussion of that sort. …

It seems very difficult to tell that he can be trusted to operate in the House of Lords and how his continued sitting in the House of Lords and attending events in the House of Lords can be legitimate. I mean, how are we supposed to invite people external to the House of Lords into meetings with him? How are we supposed to have people who are staff members or whatever be brought into conflict or into contact with him if he’s entirely unable to prevent himself operating in this way and recognises any reason — any way in which this might be considered unacceptable?”

Other evidence

291.We spoke to James Gray about the breakfast meeting. As set out at paragraph 255, Mr Gray considered that his response to Lord Maginnis’s email made it clear that Lord Maginnis would not be able to attend APPG events unless he withdrew his comment about Luke Pollard and apologised.

292.When his secretary told him that Lord Maginnis had arrived at the breakfast meeting, Mr Gray immediately went to the room:

“I went in and there were three or four MPs and Peers, scattered around the table. It was quite a bit before maybe 10 minutes before the breakfast was due to start and I went across to Ken Maginnis and just said, ‘Look, I’m very sorry about this, but, unfortunately, you are not on the list of those attending and you are not on the seating plan and we do not have any spare spaces. So I am terribly sorry about it, but I am afraid, sir, that you cannot stay’. He then launched into a tirade, apart from anything else, about me I thought rather unfairly, because I had done nothing to deserve it. I said, ‘Well, look, please do not behave like this. We do not have a space for you. You are currently sitting in a chair that belongs to BAE Systems. Let’s not make a scene about it, but please, if you would not mind you are not invited, you are not welcome just leave, I would be most grateful to you’, at which stage he called me a ‘queer’, and I thought ‘that’s one thing I am not’. Then he alleged that I was a reservist, which is perfectly true, although why being a reservist necessarily would be a term of abuse I am not certain.

Anyhow, at this stage I thought ‘this is going to become ugly’ and embarrass everybody more than it already has done, so I said, ‘Look, Ken, I think you are behaving disgracefully and not at all in a gentlemanly sort of way’, and I just turned and walked away with a tirade of abuse following my back as I walked down the room. As it happened there were one or two people who did not turn up. The very nice person from BAE Systems said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll go and sit over there’, and there was a spare space and we managed it. So he remained for the breakfast. But it could easily have been awkward. Had everyone turned up there could have been awkwardness. He did not then ask a question or do anything else at the breakfast, I am glad to say, and disappeared duly after it and I had no further discussions with him.”

293.Following his exchange with Lord Maginnis at the breakfast, Mr Gray convened a meeting of the officers of the APPG. He considered that this more formal step was necessary as “if the group did not sort of do something slightly formally, then it might be thought that we were complicit with the homophobia which Lord Maginnis was quite obviously demonstrating”. They agreed unanimously to send Lord Maginnis a letter which set out the incidents at the dinner and later breakfast and concluded:

“In all of this your behaviour has been an insult to Luke Pollard, an embarrassment to the APPG, a breach of the code of conduct in both Houses, embarrassing to our sponsors and fellow members alike, and in every way simply unacceptable. The duly elected officers of the APPG have therefore decided unanimously to remove your name from the list of members, and to make it clear to you that you are not welcome at any of our events in the future.”

294.On receipt of this letter, Lord Maginnis sent Mr Gray a letter, a copy of which Mr Gray provided to us. In the letter Lord Maginnis referred to the letter as “pompous and dictatorial”. Lord Maginnis also quoted from the Wikipedia article about Mr Gray detailing his personal life and allegations made during the 2009 expenses scandal. He rejected Mr Gray’s description of there having been an incident with Mr Pollard but restated his view that Mr Pollard had threatened him with his boyfriend. He said that he considered the whole matter to be “motivated by the long ongoing campaign against me by ‘Stonewall’ following my strenuous opposition to the Cameron same­sex marriage legislation”. He also said that he was being “pursued publicly by a Hannah Bardell: a Scots Nat. MP who had improperly tried to embarrass me”. He considered Mr Gray’s actions to be “arbitrary (behind backs) decision making”; questioned whether complaints made to the APPG had been made independently or were motivated by party loyalty; and rejected aspects of the account of the breakfast.

295.Mr Gray acknowledged that he had known Lord Maginnis for some years and in that time he thought that his behaviour had changed for the worse:

“Lord Maginnis has developed in recent times is a tendency to make very loud, very rude remarks during these dinners. It would not surprise me in the slightest had he said that [remarks about Mr Pollard during the dinner]. He was very much inclined to make very rude, very loud off the cuff remarks. I am concerned about him, to be honest with you. It would not surprise me in the slightest had he said that, but, no, I cannot claim to have heard it.”

296.Mr Gray said that whereas previously he would have described Lord Maginnis as “a distinguished old soldier, who used to turn up and sit in the corner and ask pleasant questions, and he always used to take the speaker out on to the terrace and buy him a brandy afterwards and so on’, he had in more recent years ‘just become increasingly aggressive’, such that chairs of the APPG’s meetings would ‘all say, ‘Oh, no, here comes Ken Maginnis. He is going to ask an awful question’.”

297.Mr Gray also said that “the way in which he has asked questions” has changed. Mr Gray said Lord Maginnis was:

“incapable of asking a question lasting less than five, sometimes 10 minutes. No matter what the chairman says, he will not stop talking intensely rambling and intensively aggressive questions. Very often, and let us say, for example, it is an Admiral speaking at a dinner, I would not in the least bit put it past him to ask a question about the Ulster Defence Regiment, to which the admiral would say, ‘That is really not a matter I have any knowledge of’. He had become, in my view, increasingly irrational in his line of questioning.”

298.Mr Gray said that a number of other parliamentarians who were at the breakfast raised Lord Maginnis’s behaviour with him. Two, including Toby Perkins, emailed him. We spoke to the other parliamentarian who had emailed Mr Gray, Z.

299.Z also described have seen the exchange between Lord Maginnis and Mr Gray:

“James Gray MP approached Lord Maginnis and explained to him that he was not on the list of attendees. I have to say that my first thought was, was this a bit of jocularity? But it was abundantly clear that it was not a humorous matter, it was a serious exchange and that James Gray insisted that Lord Maginnis was not a confirmed attendee; was not on the list; the places were all ascribed to individuals; he was taking somebody else’s place; and that he should vacate. Lord Maginnis was absolutely resolute that he was not going to move and the exchanges flowed from there … James Gray insisted that Lord Maginnis leave. Lord Maginnis continued to challenge and resist and invited James Gray to have him thrown out. At that point James Gray said that he would be doing no such thing and accused Lord Maginnis of being rather unpleasant.

Sadly, that then descended into Lord Maginnis shouting in quite an aggressive voice that he would “not be bullied by queers”, which was a pretty shocking thing to hear. At that, I think that really brought the conversation to an end because James Gray was not going to push it any further given Lord Maginnis’s behaviour.”

Findings of fact

300.Mr Perkins’ account is not contested by Lord Maginnis. I therefore find his account more likely than not to be accurate.

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