The Chair: Lord Maginnis, thank you very much for coming before the Conduct Committee. I will ask the members of the Committee to introduce themselves. I am afraid that we are a large body, nine persons, but we will introduce ourselves in turn. I will start with myself before going to others.
First of all, let me say that a recording will be made of this morning’s interview with you. There will be a transcript, which will be reproduced. The recording is kept only for a temporary time for the purpose of making a transcript, but the transcript will appear in a report of the Conduct Committee. Bear in mind that what you say here may become public.
As I say, we are grateful to you for coming. This is the time for us to introduce ourselves. I am Jonathan Mance, the Chair of the Conduct Committee and a former judge. I will ask the Committee in random order to introduce themselves.
Cindy Butts: Good morning. I am Cindy Butts. I am a lay member of the Conduct Committee. It is nice to meet you.
Lord Maginnis: Nice to meet you, Cindy.
Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood: I am Simon Brown, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood. I am a Cross-Bench Peer and a retired member of the Supreme Court.
Baroness Donaghy: Good morning. I am Rita Donaghy, Baroness Donaghy. I am on the Labour Benches.
Vanessa Davies: Good morning, Lord Maginnis. My name is Vanessa Davies, and I am a lay member of the Committee.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am Joyce Anelay. I am a Member of the Conservative Benches in the House of Lords.
Lord Maginnis: I think I recognise you, Joyce.
Baroness Hussein-Ece: Good morning. I am Meral Hussein-Ece. I sit on the Liberal Democrat Benches.
Andrea Coomber: Good morning, Lord Maginnis. My name is Andrea Coomber, and I am a lay member of the Committee.
Lord Maginnis: It is good to meet you.
Mark Castle: Good morning, Lord Maginnis. I am Mark Castle, a lay member of the Committee.
The Chair: Let me just say this about the exercise the Committee is engaged on this morning, which I do not think should take too long. We invite your elucidation and amplification of the position. In this context, the issue before the Conduct Committee is an appeal, first, against findings of fact and conclusions by the Commissioner that those findings involved a breach, or breaches, of the code. In that connection, the test, which I am sure you are aware of, that you have to meet for a successful appeal is to show that the Commissioner was plainly wrong in her findings and conclusions.
The second matter before the Committee is the question of sanction, if, and in so far as, the findings and conclusions are upheld by the Committee. That is a matter for the Conduct Committee to decide for itself. The Commissioner, as you see in her report, has merely made a recommendation. We have to decide whether we agree with that recommendation. We may decide on something completely different. Obviously, the Commissioner’s view has weight, but we may decide on a different, a more severe or a less severe sanction, if we get to sanction.
You have put some submissions in writing. If I read them rightly, their focus has so far been on matters connected with Ms Hannah Bardell MP. As I am sure you appreciate, the report deals with broader matters, with other incidents. The first of them, of course, deals with a security guard, but then there are incidents related to an APPG. Furthermore, I do not think I have seen anything you have put in relating to the question of sanction. Now is your opportunity to deal with other matters that you have not dealt with in writing and you wish to deal with, which you think would assist your appeal.
One of the matters we are going to be interested in on sanction, if we get to sanction, is anything you are prepared to say about your willingness to engage in a sanction, such as that recommended by the Commissioner, which involves training.
Finally, I emphasise this. We are not concerned, as a Committee, with any views you may personally hold on any subject. We are concerned with, as I have made clear, past events and the way you are said to have conducted and expressed yourself in relation to third parties on four occasions. If we uphold the Commissioner in relation to any of those occasions, we are concerned with any sanction that may be appropriate.
As I am sure you realise, this is not a time for any statements that might themselves be seen by others as upsetting. I am sure you know that that would be inappropriate. I think you have been told that we will start on the basis that your submissions will not last more than about 20 minutes, after which there may be questions the Committee might wish to ask. We will probably take a short break to consider that before letting you know whether we have any questions.
Lord Maginnis, is the exercise we are engaged on reasonably clear?
Lord Maginnis: It is mainly clear, yes. I am happy enough with that. Thank you very much, sir.
Where would you like me to start? I am not terribly sure. Can I say that this initial minor incident, which has to do with my health and my mobility—you have details, I think, in front of you—
The Chair: Yes, we have. We have read those. Of course, we understand and sympathise with physical disability.
Lord Maginnis: That is not so bad. It comes with the 83 years. Lord Brown will know about that.
The reality is that what happened—it was the second time it happened at that particular entrance—was that I came along and forgot, when I was in the Tube, to take my pass out of my briefcase. Because of my balance problems—I have no feeling in my legs or feet; it is a physical problem—I cannot bend over to take my pass out of my case. I thought that was understood the last time I had a minor confrontation on that particular issue.
I spoke to the head of the security people, and he seemed to understand. I suggested a small table. It is not just me; there are other people like myself who, if they have something in their case, cannot bend over in order to take it out. That is really where that started.
I will be quite honest: there were quite a few people there, and I was not aware of Hannah Bardell’s interjection until she started interfering. I ignored her. I did not know who she was. I really thought nothing about the whole incident. As for her description of me screaming, those of you who have sat opposite me know that I have a fairly powerful old schoolmaster’s voice. I do not need to scream at anyone, nor would I be in the habit of screaming.
Bardell’s initiatives, if I can call them that, are really what caused this whole hiatus. I note that when she intervened to report, or to give an exaggerated report of what had happened, the Speaker in the Commons said—this is in Hansard: “Normally, we would not name a Member of either House in this way”. I would have thought somebody who has been there a number of years—I do not think she has been there very long—would have known that.
What she did, and her interaction by then going to the police and then the press, meant that, of course, the police got in contact with me, the press got in contact with me. I did not, nor would it be in my interest or of my nature, contact the press about Bardell. I find that, from the outset, everything she wrote in her original report—I hope you have the original report—
The Chair: Yes. We received it yesterday, thank you.
Lord Maginnis: What you have written up in the judgment is very selective and does not take into consideration the downright—I am sorry to use this expression—lies that were used by Bardell.
At this stage, I have to say that Bardell must have known me, because, obviously, much of her anger arises from the fact that she is queer. I have been subject, since the Cameron days—people in the Chamber with me will know this—to criticism by those who believe in same-sex marriage. I do not want to get into that in detail, but I am opposed to that, just as I am opposed to abortion and just as I am opposed to euthanasia. My beliefs do not—
The Chair: Lord Maginnis, we understand that those are your views. As I said, this is not a hearing about your views. This is—
Lord Maginnis: Excuse me, sir.
The Chair: Could you allow me to finish? It is really a hearing about the Commissioner’s findings about how you conducted yourself and expressed yourself in relation to third parties. Please concentrate on that.
Lord Maginnis: Yes, but it is rather difficult to do that without touching the background and the fact that a number of years ago, and it has continued since, Stonewall nominated me as Bigot of the Year simply because I opposed same-sex marriage. I have been subject to all sorts of discrimination and abuse because I have the views I have.
You ask me to concentrate on the facts, and I will. There is the original submission, a very powerful submission, by Ms Bardell. You can make a judgment on that yourself, and what motivated her to, for example, tell downright lies: the fact that she approached the entrance, and I was already there. I take it you have the little camera and so on that will show that, in fact, she was there first. She appeared to be unable to get through the door. Now, I wonder if she was delaying, if she had seen that I was coming and she delayed her—
The Chair: Can I intervene again to say that what we have is the Commissioner’s report. We do not actually have the camera or the film. We have not seen it. We just read the Commissioner’s report, but we understand that you take issue with the correctness of what Ms Bardell said.
Lord Maginnis: Totally and utterly. There is the fact that she went into this tirade, if I could call it that, in so far as she committed it to paper, and she talked about my drunkenness. Those who know me in Parliament will know that I am not a drunk, that I do not keep falling over, that I do not keep fighting with people, that I have a good relationship with colleagues in Parliament.
I am concentrating on Bardell because she makes statements like, “I noticed he had a prosthetic leg”. I do not have a prosthetic leg. “At this point, I recall he actually attempted to physically force his way into the building”.
The Chair: Can I intervene again? Reading Ms Bardell’s statement, she does not actually herself say that she saw you drunk. What she says is that she was told by two separate security guards, it appears, of alleged drunkenness. You deny that, we understand that you deny that, and you say that is not the case.
Lord Maginnis: Absolutely. There are two points I will make. In so far as I have a good relationship with most of the individuals I bump into, whether it be in the Bishop’s Bar or in the entrance—I normally come in through the Peers entrance—I have never had other than the most pleasant relationship with those people. There are times when, in fact, I did forget my pass. I would say, “Oh sorry, I’ve forgotten”. They do not say, “Right, go off and get yourself a new pass”. They say, “Okay”, and they put their pass in and allow me into the lift. I just do not find acceptable that on two occasions at the Tube entrance I have had difficulty.
Now, can I interject here to say—
The Chair: Would you avoid the Tube entrance in future? You say you normally use the Peers entrance.
Lord Maginnis: I do, because I am normally coming from my flat. Most of the time I am coming from that direction. No, I would not avoid the Peers entrance, quite simply because of my inability to walk more than about a quarter of a mile. You will understand that. I will not go into that in detail.
The one thing that I would point out—it is only a deduction of mine—is that I think Bombolo was in fact encouraged, and perhaps prompted, by Ms Bardell to lodge his complaint. The strange thing is—I am rather surprised that Ms Scott-Moncrieff did not draw attention to this fact—that I had two very experienced and very senior Peers in the lobby at that time, whom Ms Bardell carefully avoids mentioning. They were [two other parliamentarians]—two decent, experienced, long-time colleagues, who have known me for umpteen years. When they found me in difficulty, they held up their passes and said, “Look, we can identify Lord Maginnis. He’s been here a long time”. It is not 46 years, as Ms Bardell claims, but getting in that direction. The reality is that they were ignored. At the same time, I was—
The Chair: Can I interrupt, Lord Maginnis? You have not produced any material from either [of two other parliamentarians], have you?
Lord Maginnis: No, because I submitted their names. [One of two other parliamentarians] came to me and said, “Ken, that was dreadful. I was embarrassed for you yesterday. If I can be of any help, please take it for granted”. I submitted his name, along with [the name of the second other parliamentarian]. As far as I am aware, Ms Scott-Moncrieff did not bother with my submission in that respect.
As I say, this is an ongoing campaign against me. It is almost as though somebody is saying, “Maginnis, you don’t have freedom of speech in terms of the relationship between you and Bardell”. Into the bargain, I was horrified and surprised to discover—I research those I am coming in contact with, if I do not already know them—that Ms Scott-Moncrieff did not indicate that she was prejudiced, in so far as she represented an organisation called Out4Marriage. That is an organisation, and I have seen videos of her representing her opinion on that. I am surprised that she did not volunteer or admit that she was innately prejudiced on that issue.
The Chair: You focused on Ms Bardell and her intervention and involvement. You mentioned Mr Bombolo. Is there anything you want to say about the other two incidents that the Commissioner has investigated, relating to the APPG? Finally, as I indicated, if we uphold, so far as we uphold, any of the findings and conclusions, is there anything you want to say on sanction?
Lord Maginnis: All I would say is: look at my record. I stand over my record. I will have been married for 60 years next year. I have four children and seven grandchildren. My involvement in public life is from when I was captain of a rugby team. For 16 years out of the 23 years I taught, I was principal of a school.
I will point this out. I took over a school in 1966, which, from 1948—the first year of the 11-plus—never had a child qualify. I was asked to take the school over, because it was felt that I could do the school good. I now look at that school, and my own children went to it. My son is the global director for forest, water and fisheries with the world conservation union. The dean of the diocese of Clogher was one of my early successes. I have had a bevy of schoolteachers. I do not know why that would be, but anyhow I have had people who have gone through college and been schoolteachers. I have a chap—the son of the village sergeant—who is head of a college across the border in the south of Ireland. I had a very successful period as a schoolteacher.
I was a major in the UDR from the first day it was formed on 1 April 1970. I got into trouble for not giving my evidence behind a blanket, but I have put six IRA men and one loyalist murderer in prison. These are people who grew up within two to 10 miles of me. I refused to give evidence from behind a blanket. It would have been a mockery to do so.
When the Ballygawley bus bomb killed 10 of our soldiers, I was on the scene. I helped to organise the ambulances and so on. I took charge there, along with a local doctor. He was my own GP. We only lost one person of the 16 who were taken to hospital. Out of the 10, nine were killed on the spot.
I was then summoned by Mrs Thatcher, with whom I had a better relationship than with anyone else I can think of. I was summoned by her on the Friday evening. On Saturday at lunchtime, I was sitting in 10 Downing Street. She asked me who was responsible. I knew that very well; they had killed other people. I told her, and she asked me, “What will we do about it?” I gave her a detailed plan, which she had implemented to the last letter. Within six weeks, the three killers were themselves ambushed when they were on their way to murder another member of the security forces. I am used to facing up to my responsibility.
I took part when it was not a popular thing among unionists to do so. I was described as David Trimble’s hitman. As you know, David is an excellent politician but not a very good communicator. I was the person who, through my rugby-playing days and so on, knew the south of Ireland as well as I know Northern Ireland. I had a relationship with the Bertie Aherns of this world. I do not want to waste your time with this, but I would never go down to a rugby match in Dublin that Bertie would not ring me and say, “Are you coming down? Come to my office and we’ll get your car left at such and such a place. I’ll see you are okay, and we’ll have a jar”.
It was because of my relationship with people whom, by and large unionists did not interact with, that I was able to see the Belfast agreement brought to fruition, along with David Trimble, John Kilclooney and people like that. That is my history. I am not a play actor. I am not somebody who, as Ms Bardell says, screams at anybody. Even people who had to answer my rather awkward questions in the House will admit that I have yet to scream at them. You are meant to smile at that, Joyce. Anyhow, that is the reality. I am neither vicious, nor am I thoughtless.
As far as the other incident was concerned, the statement by—I forget his name—the chap who was chairman, Pollock or something.
The Chair: Mr Pollard.
Lord Maginnis: I did not know him. When I spoke to him after one meeting, where he ignored me, he then said, “Well, we’ll sort it out on the terrace. My boyfriend is out there”. Now, I did not know what his inclinations were until he made that remark. He explains it away by saying, “Oh, Ken Maginnis was looking at me and I was making a joke saying, ‘I’ve already got a boyfriend. I don’t need you”, or words to that effect.
What a load of nonsense. How am I expected to know the inclinations of everybody I bump into? It was, in fact, from my deduction, something that had come on the back of—I do not call it the Bombolo incident because it was not an incident, and I do not think there would have been a word about it if it had not been for the outlandish behaviour of Bardell. Obviously, that had done the rounds, not least in the Chamber where—what did you say his name was?—Pollard sits.
It is the sort of victimisation that I have faced for years, since Cameron’s premiership. As I say, I was nominated by Stonewall—I mentioned this before—as Bigot of the Year.
The Chair: You have mentioned it, yes. The final incident was with Mr Perkins MP. It is said that you made statements at that. Do you want to say anything about that?
Lord Maginnis: I do not know who Perkins is. I simply do not know him. He intimated that he came to speak to me, and that in explaining what was going on I used what he described as offensive language, or whatever he did. That was a conversation to a colleague sitting at the same table—in colloquial language, I presume. It was his initiative to speak to me.
The Chair: Do I understand then that you do not dispute that you used the language recorded by the Commissioner in paragraph 51?
Lord Maginnis: I do not have a clue, good sir. I do not make a record of what I think when somebody sitting at a table with me has a casual conversation. The one thing I will say is this. I do not tell lies. It is well recognised that I do not tell lies.
The Chair: There is one question about the sanction—the one I mentioned earlier. If we uphold, in so far as we uphold, any of the findings relating to your attitude and conduct, and the way you expressed your attitude towards third parties, we have to consider the Commissioner’s recommendation that it would be appropriate to ask you to undertake some bespoke training. Is that something you would be willing to engage with, if we upheld that?
Lord Maginnis: The bespoke training; look, if that is what it requires, I will not say no. I do not need—I have been involved in training both—
The Chair: We understand that, but I think the first part of your answer is an indication that you would be prepared to, and that is what I was interested in.
Lord Maginnis: Yes.
The Chair: Is there anything more you would like to say? I think we have allowed you considerable time.
Lord Maginnis: Indeed you have, and I am very grateful. I expected the people on my screen to bombard me with questions. You have been very gracious, Jonathan, and I appreciate that.
The one thing I would say is that at virtually 83 years of age, and with the workload I have, in so far as we have now, in a constituency I held for 18 years that was the one flaw in my character. I decided that after the Belfast agreement I would resign from Parliament and go back and help to run Northern Ireland. As you know, that all ended in a bit of a hiatus and I missed the opportunity. It will not come to me again. Having a constituency that I still have loyalty to and for which I still work 15 hours a day, I do not need some sort of suspension.
I do not need a smack across the hand in terms of what happened. I am sorry it happened, as far as Bombolo is concerned. As far as the other things are concerned, well, I have been 37 years in Parliament. I think people know what they get. They know I do not dress up my language unless there is a very good reason. I think you take my point.
The Chair: I think we have the point on that. Lord Maginnis, we will ask you to wait in the retiring room, lobby or whatever the electronic equivalent is. We will discuss what you have said to us among ourselves and see whether there are any questions we want to ask. Thank you for your presentation.
The Committee continued in private.
The Chair: Lord Maginnis, thank you for your patience. There is one area in relation to which the Committee, having discussed what you said to us, would like to ask you a question.
The Commissioner has made findings. Assuming that the Conduct Committee were to uphold those findings, the Commissioner has made a recommendation regarding sanction, by which we are not of course bound. We have to consider it, though; it is a starting point. She said that there should be a suspension from the House for nine months, and bespoke training and behaviour change coaching. If the bespoke training and behaviour change coaching lasted longer than nine months, the suspension would continue until its completion. It was in that sense a minimum of nine months and it was combined with training.
I asked you a question regarding training, to which you said that you would not say no. I cut you off from further answer. The Committee would like to give you the opportunity to tell us now what you understand the aim and effect of training of the type described by the Commissioner—bespoke training and behaviour change coaching to address behaviour and its effects on others—would or might be. What do you understand the aim and effect would or might be?
Lord Maginnis: First of all—you will excuse me being blunt about this—I would have no confidence, from what I have experienced so far, in the Commissioner.
The Chair: We understand that you take issue. We are not prejudging the questions. We are just asking you on an assumption. We have to consider her findings. We are not giving you an answer on what we think; we are just asking you on an assumption, if we get to sanctions.
I appreciate that you do not have confidence in the Commissioner, so no doubt you think her sanction is inappropriate, but supposing we concluded that it was an appropriate sanction, and that there should be a suspension, combined with an undertaking on your part to undertake training and behaviour change, what do you understand the aim and effect of that training exercise would or might be? Just give us some indication. You said you would not say no to it. We just want to understand what that means.
Lord Maginnis: I was speaking generally. I do not know what this alleged training means to an 83 year-old. I did not realise that it would be ongoing. I thought it would be a session somewhere, and would I take part in that. God knows, I have been through enough training in my life one way and t’other. I do not need an extended period, nor was I alluding to that.
Anything that actually resulted in a suspension would, in fact, be an issue that, on principle, I could not accept. I did not want to put it as crudely as that, but that is the reality. I have been through life. It has been a fairly hard life for me, one way and another, and I am not prepared to humiliate myself more than others have sought to humiliate me.
The Chair: I do not know how far it is fruitful for us to explore that. I can understand that you might disagree with a sanction along the lines recommended by the Commissioner, but I am not sure what you mean by saying you would not accept it on principle.
You have to understand that the Conduct Committee makes a recommendation to the House, which is not debated by the House. We are treated as the deciding body, in effect; although the House has to vote whether to approve it or not, it is not after a debate. You must face the position that you are being asked what your attitude would be if the Conduct Committee thought that the same broad recommendations, or similar recommendations involving a period of suspension, plus training and change, was correct. If you want to say anything more, do. I was simply asking you what you would understand as the aim and effect of that sort of training. I think you said that you do not know what it would mean.
Lord Maginnis: Not only that. I do not want to be putting muscle into this, but I did not do anything that was not provoked. What then subsequently happened was not of my making. You embarrass me in so far as I do not want to appear to dictate, but I would not accept a punishment of the nature that is perhaps implied by your question.
I know you have to reconcile my perspective with that of the Commissioner, but I have been humiliated for too long because of my beliefs and my opinions. I have a job to do. I intend to do it. I would pursue the issue.
The Chair: Thank you. Is there any question that any other member of the Committee would wish to ask?
Lord Maginnis, thank you very much indeed. We will obviously consider what you have said. Is there anything you wish to add on any subject?
Lord Maginnis: I would summarise it by saying that I have been wronged. I did not go into detail about some of the injustices in terms of my ordinary working in the House that have occurred. For example—
The Chair: I do not think that will is going to be on the subject matter of the complaint. We appreciate that you feel you have been wronged in some respects.
Lord Maginnis: Yes, and not least in so far as a comparatively minor incident, where I was being victimised, has been turned into, thanks to Ms Bardell and others, what we are now discussing. I would be dishonest not to say that I deeply resent that after the 37 years and all those other years of public service that I have given to our society.
The Chair: Thank you.
Lord Maginnis: Thanks, Jonathan.
25 The Commissioner’s interview with one of the other parliamentarians is referenced at paragraph 180 of her report. At paragraph 183 of her report, the Commissioner explains she attempted but was unable to arrange an interview with the other parliamentarian.
26 At paragraph 375 of her report, the Commissioner explains that “Out 4 Marriage” 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 she recorded such a video. She further writes that her own social and moral views were not a relevant factor in this investigation.