Half of House of Lords Peers Have Not Attended Anti-Bullying Training

Data obtained by VICE News shows 49 percent of peers are yet to attend, despite one in five Lords staffers saying they have been bullied at work.
November 2, 2020, 12:19pm
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Nearly half of all peers in the House of Lords haven’t attended or booked to attend anti-bullying and anti-harassment training, according to Freedom of Information data obtained by VICE News. 

Analysis of this data reveals that 388 of 798 sitting members of the upper chamber (49 percent) – including bishops, earls, life peers and former MPs – are yet to sit the free training as of September this year.

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Those most likely to have already attended or booked to attend include Liberal Democrat and women peers, with 19 percent of the former and 28 percent of the latter still due to attend the Valuing Everyone training sessions. 

Male peers, bishops and DUP peers are the worst for non-attendance, with 56 percent of men, 60 percent of bishops and all five DUP peers failing to attend the training. Forty-seven percent of all hereditary peers also did not make it to a session. 

In August, VICE News found that 140 MPs hadn’t attended the same training before the start of summer recess, with Conservatives making up almost 90 percent of absentees. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 15 Cabinet members and a slew of Tory MPs have since signed up to the training.

As for their peers in the upper chamber, former Conservative Party leader William Hague, ex-deputy Labour leader John Prescott, former cabinet minister for Labour Peter Mandelson and Theresa May’s former housing minister and chief of staff Gavin Barwell are among those who did not attend the Lords’ Valuing Everyone session by the end of September. 

The same can be said for Jenny Tonge, who quit the Lib Dems after she was suspended from the party following allegations of antisemitism; David Willetts, who was Education and Skills minister during the Coalition; and Baroness Warsi, who’s made consistent efforts to hold the Conservative Party to account for its alleged Islamophobia

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Advertising guru Maurice Saatchi also failed to sign up or attend the session by the end of the month, along with Professor Robert Winston, the doctor, scientist and TV presenter. Entrepreneur turned Apprentice star Alan Sugar – who has been accused of sending sexist and racist tweets – is also on the list of non-attendees. Sugar has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

VICE News contacted each of the peers named above for comment, but did not receive any responses.

Perhaps the presumption is that the esteemed individuals who make up the House of Lords – selected by virtue of their success, bloodline, proximity to a former prime minister or rank in the Church of England – might not need to take a course in how to not bully people, and how best to call out such harassment when it does occur.  

Unfortunately, this doesn’t quite align with reality. One out of five staffers in the House of Lords say they have been harassed or bullied, according to an official 2019 report – but many failed to report this due to a fear of reprisal. In 2019 it was reported that, over the last six years, 11 peers have been sanctioned after harassment and bullying allegations. 

More recently, Lord Stone, 78, was suspended by Labour and sanctioned by the Lords following allegations that he had sexually harassed staff members, including unwanted sexual touching and joking that he hoped the briefing document relating to the Upskirting Bill contained photos. His suspension was extended this summer and he was sanctioned again after more allegations – including unwanted sexual touching – were made against him by two young women. Stone is undergoing “bespoke training and behaviour coaching sessions” and still sits in the Lords.

Also on the Labour benches was Lord Lea, 83, who has been the subject of almost 20 staff complaints over the past decade, including two women alleging “stalkerish” behaviour. He was suspended from the party in January of this year. He has apologised for his actions but still sits in the Lords.

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Then there’s Lord Feldman, who in 2015 was under pressure to quit his role as co-chairman of the Conservative Party following the suicide of Elliott Johnson, an activist who took his own life aged 21 after alleging bullying in the party when Lord Feldman was in charge of CCHQ. Lord Feldman did not resign and continues to sit in the Lords. In the summer of 2020, the party released a summary of its inquiry into the alleged bullying, denying any responsibility and promising a clear complaints procedure for volunteers. 

The House of Lords told VICE News that peers may not have been able to attend the training due to the summer recess, the prorogation of Parliament in 2019 and its dissolution ahead of the last election. The coronavirus pandemic also made training temporarily unavailable before it was moved online. 

They added: “Since the Valuing Everyone training was offered to members of the Lords in September 2019, more than 390 have voluntarily completed it. This is good progress […] Earlier this week, the Lords Conduct Committee published a report recommending changes to the Code of Conduct which will require all members to do this training.”

However, the training has been available since 2018. Here’s a guide to the 388 peers who hadn’t turned up or booked to attend the training before the end of September.

Peers who haven’t turned up by peerage type

  • 43 are hereditary peers. That’s 47 percent of all hereditary peers.
  • 330 are life peers. That’s 48 percent of all life peers.
  • 15 are bishops. That’s 58 percent of all bishops in the house. 

Peers who haven’t turned up by party

  • 130 are Conservative. That’s 51 percent of all Tory peers.
  • 103 are cross-benchers. That’s 57 percent of all crossbench peers.
  • 76 are Labour. That’s 43 percent of all Labour peers.
  • 35 are non-affiliated. That’s 67 percent of all non-affiliated peers. 
  • 17 are Lib Dem. That’s 19 percent of all Lib Dem peers 
  • 5 are DUP. That’s 100 percent of the DUP peers.
  • 2 are Independent Labour. That’s 100 percent of Independent Labour peers.
  • 1 is Labour Independent. That’s 100 percent of Labour Independent peers.
  • 1 is an Independent Social Democrat. That’s 100 percent of ISD peers
  • 1 is Independent Ulster Unionist. That’s 100 percent of IUP peers
  • 1 is Ulster Unionist Party. That’s 50 percent of UUP peers
  • 1 is Plaid Cymru. That’s 100 percent of Plaid Cymru peers.

Peers who haven’t turned up by gender

  • 325 men, or 56 percent of all male peers
  • 63 women, or 28 percent of all female peers.

@sophwilkinson