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Conduct Committee Report

Volume 807: debated on Thursday 19 November 2020

Motion to Agree

Moved by

That the Report from the Select Committee The Conduct of Lord Ahmed be agreed to. (6th Report, HL Paper 170)

My Lords, as the chair of the Conduct Committee, first, I draw the House’s attention to Standing Order 68A, which states that Motions on reports resulting from investigations under the Code of Conduct are decided without debate. This is therefore not an occasion on which I can, or will, take questions.

The reasons for Standing Order 68A are not only that reports such as this one can be highly sensitive and often involve vulnerable people but that the House has established a formal system of decision-making and appeals on which I hope noble Lords can be sure they can rely. Such reports are the culmination of a full investigation by the House’s independent Commissioner for Standards and very careful consideration thereafter by the Conduct Committee of any appeal. In this serious case, the appeal was considered by all nine members of the Conduct Committee, four of whom are independent lay members. The House can rest assured that it considered every aspect of this case.

The resulting report upholds the key findings of the commissioner to the effect that, first, Lord Ahmed breached the Code of Conduct by failing to act on his personal honour—in particular, by sexually assaulting a vulnerable member of the public who came to him as a parliamentarian asking for his help in relation to a complaint to the police about a faith healer’s activities. Secondly, he misled her by lying about his intentions to help her pursue that complaint, and he exploited her emotionally and sexually.

Lord Ahmed appealed to the Conduct Committee. As I have said, we heard that appeal, which included a ground suggesting significant fresh evidence. We remitted that ground to the commissioner who, after investigation, concluded in a supplementary report that there was nothing in that respect to disturb her previous conclusions. We then considered and prepared our 46-paragraph report, which noble Lords have, covering all aspects of Lord Ahmed’s appeal against the commissioner’s original and supplementary reports. We upheld the key findings, which I have set out, as well as the sanction recommended of expulsion.

We noted that the commissioner had found Lord Ahmed unco-operative and dishonest in the key areas and that he had shown no regret, remorse or understanding of the inappropriateness of his conduct or its effect on a vulnerable victim. We said in paragraph 45 of our report:

“The abuse of the privileged position of membership for a member’s own gain or gratification, at the expense of the vulnerable or less privileged, involves a fundamental breach of trust and merits the gravest sanction. Even though it is possible to think of even more serious breaches, the case in all its circumstances which we have set out crosses the threshold calling for immediate and definitive expulsion.”

The report therefore recommends that Lord Ahmed be expelled from the House. However, after Lord Ahmed was shown an embargoed copy of the report last Thursday, he gave notice of his retirement from the House on Saturday 14 November 2020 under the provisions of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014. The House is therefore not being asked to agree a separate expulsion Motion today because Lord Ahmed is no longer a Member. I know that some Members of the House have asked why his resignation was accepted. The answer is that there is no provision under the Act to refuse or delay it. The resignation takes automatic effect at the beginning of the date given for retirement.

However, I confirm to the House that Lord Ahmed will retain none of the privileges of a retired Member. If this Motion is agreed today, the House of Lords Commission has agreed that with immediate effect Lord Ahmed will not be entitled to a retired Member’s pass and will not be able to access any of the facilities of the House. I beg to move.

Motion agreed.