The privileges and conduct committee announced on Monday that Lord Lester would be suspended until June 2022 for sexual harassment and “corrupt inducements”, after three separate inquiries over a year. The committee’s report said Lester told Sanghera: “If you sleep with me, I will make you a baroness within a year."
The suspension, the longest for a peer or an MP since the second world war, required endorsement by the full Lords chamber. Another peer and supporter of Lester, David Pannick, forced a vote. He tabled an amendment to the report saying it should be sent back to the committee because it had not acted “in accordance with the principles of natural justice and fairness”. The vote was won by 101 to 78, stopping the suspension.
Sanghera said she felt the punishment had been blocked by “what I can only describe as the old boy network”. She said: “I feel as if I’ve been victimised all over again, bullied and traduced. What I witnessed there today were many of Lord Lester’s friends, who declared that they were his friends, making representations on behalf of him. And I don’t think that was fair. This process has gone through three levels, all legal appeals were rejected, and today they’ve undermined the whole process and undermined the commissioner and me. More importantly, they’ve undermined victims. I’ve campaigned for victims for over 25 years, and I cannot sit here today and say with confidence that if you are a victim of sexual harassment and bullying from somebody in the House of Lords, then report it. I would actually say the opposite. I would not want to subject them to what I’ve been through.” She told the Evening Standard: "I have to say that if the Lords really believe that the outcome of today isn't going to deter victims, then I don't know what world they are living in."
Sanghera’s lawyers say they were surprised that Lester complained about the way the inquiry was handled only after it was over. Mr Hooper said: “All peers, including Lord Lester, have accepted this procedure for people to make complaints but they don’t seem to like it when the decision is against them.”