House of Lords peers to be paid to watch from home says expert
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The Valuing Everyone’ training sessions aim to combat bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct. The sessions were made compulsory last November and all peers had to complete the course by April 1 else they would face breaching the Members Code of Conduct.
A probe has now been launched by the House of Lords Standards Commissioner into 60 members of the Chamber because they missed the deadline.
One of these members includes 91-year-old Baroness Boothroyd, the former House of Commons Speaker.
She told House of Lord’s chamber chiefs that she had a medical condition – but a probe was launched anyway.
A House of Lords question asked by House of Lords Peer Lords Marlesford about the costs revealed £82,158 has been spent on the training so far.
The course is funded by the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme budget which is taxpayer-funded.
House of Lords Senior Deputy Speaker Lord McFall added in the response: “The same training courses have been offered to, and attended by, members of both Houses.”
Tory Peer Baroness Foster of Oxton, a former North West MEP, who undertook the course claimed she “Lost the will” about 10mins in.
She added: “I’ve done some courses in my time in industry but this was just something else.
“Expensive, patronising nonsense; treated like children with typical stereotypical role play footage.
“You couldn’t make it up.”
Another Peer, Lord Pearson of Rannoch then questioned the policy and asked whether calling a female over the age of 14 as a “girl” rather than a “lady” in the “course of their parliamentary duties” would constitute a breach of the Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Lords.
Lord McFall responded: “Only the Commissioner for Standards and the Conduct Committee can decide whether something is a breach of the Code of Conduct, upon receipt of a specific complaint to the Commissioner or appeal to the Conduct Committee.
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“They do not deal with hypothetical situations.”
James Roberts, political director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers won’t be happy at having to pay for pricey courses telling politicians how to behave.”
Around 700 peers have completed the training which House officials admitted had been disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Baroness Boothroyd said she would be very happy to be trained when the coronavirus pandemic was over, adding: “You’re never too old to learn.”
In response, a House of Lords spokesperson said: “Valuing Everyone training is an important strand of the work within Parliament to ensure that everyone working here is able to recognise bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct, and feels confident taking action to tackle and prevent it.
“The training has been praised in separate independent external reviews by Alison Stanley and Naomi Ellenbogen QC.
“In November 2020, following a period in which members could attend the training voluntarily, the House of Lords agreed that it should be mandatory for members to attend the training.
“All Members were written to alert them to this obligation. Any member who had not completed the training by 1 April 2021 or who had not booked on to a session by that date had to be referred to the Commissioner for investigation as being in breach of the Code of Conduct.
“Those investigations are ongoing so it would be inappropriate to comment on individual cases.”
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