A Labour peer has been suspended after parliamentary authorities upheld a harassment complaint relating to his behaviour towards a woman around 60 years his junior.

Lord Lea, 82, sent a note to the woman, who was in her twenties, telling her that he had a framed photo of her on his piano and inviting her to share a bottle of champagne with him.

The peer, who previously worked for the TUC, was also found to have harassed a second women after devising a sexual rhyme about her.

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The House of Lords commissioner for standards, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, ruled that his behaviour “met the criteria for harassment” relating to age and sex in both cases and concluded that he had broken the parliamentary code of conduct. He was swiftly suspended by the Labour Peers Group, meaning he will have to sit as an independent while he completes a training programme.

It emerged during the course of her investigation that Lord Lea had been the subject of 18 complaints between 2011 and 2019, including one about making a racially offensive comment and 15 about shouting at staff, aggression and making unreasonable demands. 

The first complainant who spoke to Ms Scott-Moncreiff said Lord Lea had behaved inappropriately towards her during an parliamentary trip more than a decade ago by suggesting that they share a bottle of champagne in his hotel room – a suggestion denied by the peer. They instead shared the bottle of wine in a hotel lobby. Because the incident was so long ago, it was not included in the formal investigation.

However, in 2018, nine years after the trip, the peer sent the same woman a parcel containing a framed photo of her taken during the trip and a letter that mentioned them drinking the champagne during the visit.

In the letter, Lord Lea told her that he had placed a copy of the photo on his piano at home, and invited her for a cup of tea or “to finish that bottle of champagne”.

The woman told Ms Scott-Moncreiff that she thought the peer’s behaviour was “slightly stalkerish... to receive something like that with the letter after such a long time”. She said she found the admission that he had a photo of her at home  ”really weird”, adding: “I think that it is strange to have a picture of a [woman in her twenties] that you don’t know and have no contact with.” 

When the allegations were put to him, Lord Lea apologised for the “unwelcome intrusion” and said he had made a “serious error of judgement” in sending the letter. However, he also said he did not fully understand the complainant’s distress and suggested that it was in part because she may have “had some feelings of affections for me which she thought I had torn up”. He also suggested that she was “exaggerating” or “egging the pudding in some way” and had “put two and two together and made a lot more than four”.

Ms Scott-Moncreiff also investigated a second complaint against Lord Lea.

This related to his treatment of a different woman, who said the peer promised to write her a poem referring to an explicit rhyme with her name, and claimed that he had repeatedly attempted to start conversations with her when she was alone in her office, as well as forcing her to stand up to pass him various objects. He also invited her to have tea and a drink with him.

Lord Lea admitted using the rhyme and said he was “deeply sorry”, although he insisted that he was “certainly not making advances”.

Ms Scott-Moncreiff said Lord Lea had agreed to take part in “bespoke training and behaviour change coaching” and that both complainants had agreed with this course of action.

But asked why there had been so many complaints against him, the peer appeared to blame his lack of IT skills. He speculated that many of the complaints would have come from parliamentary IT staff “because I am hopeless at IT and I get very frustrated sometimes on that”.

A Labour Lords spokesperson said: “The chief whip has informed Lord Lea that he is suspended from the Labour Peers Group until further notice. We appreciate that David has already begun the recommended training and further discussions will be had once that course has been completed to the satisfaction of the Commissioner.”

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