House of Lords A Feudal State

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Enquiry Finds Sexual Harassment, Sense of Superiority, Drunkenness

A report into the behaviour of the hereditary lords, unelected legislators and bishops who sit in Britain’s legislature has revealed a contempt for staff that rivals the legislators’ contempt for democracy.

The enquiry into relations between staff and legislators in the House of Lords was carried out by barrister Naomi Ellenbogen. One member of the House’s staff told here that it was like “a feudal state and the peasants need to stay out of the way”. Another said: “It makes my skin crawl when people say ‘M’Lord’.”

Ellenbogen reports “numerous examples” of “lords” who had a “sense of superiority and entitlement” that resulted in a “lack of due courtesy and respect for staff”.  She was told that the “lords” “just felt better than you”.

Among Ms Ellenbogen’s other findings –

* 94 cases of sexual harassment by the male legislators, known as “lords”.

* Security staff known as “door keepers” threw their weight around. They frequently challenged black and female staff despite their wearing their security passes.

* Drunken legislators.

* An absence of formal complaints about bad behaviour because of fear, a belief that no action would be taken or deference.

* Snobbery, deference, excessive formality and hierarchy.

* Legislators suffering from dementia sometimes made life difficult for staff.

* Staff were expected to help legislators with their personal business and afraid to refuse.

* “Clerks”, the senior officials, see themselves as a superior caste and often showed explosive losses of temper.