The House of Lords has been accused of treating peers like ‘obstinate schoolboys’ after two octogenarians were banned from parliament’s bars and restaurants for failing to attend a sexual harassment workshop.
The Friends of Lord Colms, 89, and Lord Willoughby de Brock, 82, termed the punishment as ‘ridiculous’ after the results of the mandatory ‘Valued Everyone’ sections.
The pair along with Lord James were threatened with excommunication earlier this month and authorities have now acted.
The two-hour ‘Valuing Everyone’ session is run by a controversial consultancy firm that uses giant blue puppets in some of its courses.
A spokesman for Parliament said the Challenge Consultancy had received £885,354 to run courses at the Commons and Lords.
The Friends of Lord Colms (right), 89, and Lord Willoughby de Brock (left), 82, termed the punishment ‘ridiculous’ after the results of the mandatory ‘Valued Everyone’ sections.
Friends of the two colleagues told the Times that the ban was ‘ridiculous’, with them being treated like schoolchildren who ‘can’t go to the tuck shop’ because they didn’t ‘prepare’.
Lord Hesseltine said: ‘This is the most ridiculous excommunication I could imagine.’
The former deputy prime minister also called it a ‘shocking waste of taxpayers’ money’ after completing the training to avoid punishment.
Before the vote on training, Lord Cormack said the ban would be foolish as the library had ‘many books on good behaviour’.
After being found to be in breach of the Lord’s Code of Conduct, all three fellows would be banned from the ‘dining and banqueting facilities’ of the House, the Lord’s Library and meeting rooms, which they could ordinarily book.
They will only be able to communicate by email with the Lord’s staff, including the offices of the Clerk and Lord Speaker.
The pair – with Lord James (pictured) – were threatened with a boycott earlier this month and authorities have now acted
The sanctions were approved by the Lord’s Conduct Committee, chaired by Lord Mannes, a former Supreme Court judge.
Peers would only get access back if they agreed to the training, which Lord James, 83, who had previously advised George Osborne, argued was a violation of freedom of speech.
Hereditary peer Lord Willoughby said the training was ‘misguided’ and amounted to a ‘virtue sign’.
He told the committee: ‘The idea that we should all be trained to value is completely misguided.
‘No matter how much training I get, I will never value everyone; As an example, I will never be able to give importance to murdered terrorists, no matter how many re-education or self-criticism camps I have to attend.’
Lord Kalms, who runs electronics retailer Dixon, said: ‘During that period I was at the forefront of women’s equal rights and well ahead of legalization.’
He questioned the Lords’ powers to impose sanctions on people on the grounds of ‘lack of training’, asking: ‘Does this mean that the House can approve other sanctions, for example with no training in nuclear technology’ Or not able to read the balance sheet?’
‘Valuing everyone’, which is voluntary for MPs, was made mandatory at Lord’s last year.
Tory MP Tom Hunt has said previously that peers should not be forced to take the course.
Another MP criticized the training, calling it “woke up consultants trying to milk the public sector”.
It comes after it was revealed by the Mail on Sunday, Betty Boothroyd (pictured in March 2016) was one of 60 peers screened for not completing courses.
In April a House of Commons spokesman said the total expenditure from Parliament on the Challenge Consultancy so far was £885,354, mainly covering ‘assess all’ training.
The Lord’s officials insisted that the training was ‘informed by anecdotal examples of inappropriate behavior by members that had previously usually gone without challenge’.
The Mail revealed on Sunday that Betty Boothroyd, who made history as the first and only female Commons speaker, was one of 60 peers screened for not completing the course.
Controversy erupted over Baroness Boothroyd’s decision to launch a formal investigation, knowing she had recovered from open-heart surgery.
After a public outcry, Lady Boothroyd was finally cleared of code violations due to exceptional circumstances.