Parliament 'hate crime' investigation after Lord called MP 'queer'

10 January 2020, 06:00

SNP MP Hannah Bardell said independent unionist peer Lord Maginnis launched a "homophobic attack" on her
SNP MP Hannah Bardell said independent unionist peer Lord Maginnis launched a "homophobic attack" on her. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Specialist police are investigating an "allegation of a hate crime" in Parliament after a gay MP accused a Lord of calling her a "queer."

The investigation comes after SNP MP Hannah Bardell used a point of order in the House to accuse independent unionist peer Lord Maginnis of launching a "homophobic attack" on her after she brought up his behaviour towards security staff.

The HuffPost news website reported that Lord Maginnis did not deny her claims and quoted him saying: "Queers like Ms Bardell don't particularly annoy me. OK, she's got her cheap publicity out of it."

The peer told HuffPost UK: “[It] would probably all have blown over except this Bardell woman decided to get herself a bit of publicity.

“She and I are known to be on other sides – I am opposed to abortion, I am opposed to gay people like her seeking to change marriage.

“You might say I’m old fashioned, or you could say I’m conservative in Biblical terms – I mean, I’m not a preacher or anything."

The SNP MP is her party's spokesperson on Consular Affairs
The SNP MP is her party's spokesperson on Consular Affairs. Picture: PA

Raising the incident during business questions, Livingston MP Ms Bardell said: "I'm sorry to say that the member from the other place (the House of Lords) who I have complained about has now launched a homophobic attack on me in the press.

"This will be reported to the police and I know that I and others consider this to be a hate crime."

The Metropolitan Police confirmed on Thursday that it was investigating an allegation of hate crime at the House of Commons.

A spokeswoman said: "The Met's Parliamentary Liaison and Investigation Team is looking into an allegation of hate crime at the House of Commons made to them on Thursday, January 9."

Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg told MPs: "The attack on the honourable lady was unutterably disgraceful and she is clearly owed an apology by the noble lord for what he said about her.

"I think everybody who heard about that was shocked by the comments that he is reported to have made and has not denied.

"I think they are really appalling, and I know we are not allowed to criticise members of the other house, the other place, except on a specific motion, but I think under these circumstances we are allowed to stretch the rules."

The Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler, said such language has "no place in Parliament".

He added: "I am deeply concerned by recent reports of a member of the House of Lords directing offensive language towards parliamentary security staff and a Member of Parliament.

"The reported behaviour and use of such language is totally unacceptable and has no place in Parliament.

"We are working hard to build an inclusive and respectful environment, and behaviour such as this totally undermines our collective efforts.

"Security on the parliamentary estate is everyone's responsibility.

"Any disregard for security rules is against the interests of us all. Our security staff do a difficult job with the utmost professionalism and deserve support from all members."

On Wednesday, Ms Bardell, MP for Livingston, outlined the alleged incident to Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle in a point of order.

She said: "Yesterday, on re-entering the building for the first time after Christmas, I witnessed one of the worst cases of abuse of security staff that I have seen in my time here.

"One of the members of the other place - who I will name so as not to incriminate anybody else: Lord Ken Maginnis - had forgotten his pass, something we've all been guilty of.

"However, instead of taking the advice of the security staff - who, as we all know, are here for our security and our safety - he proceeded to verbally abuse and shout at both the members of staff, calling them 'crooked', saying 'did they not know who he was, he'd been here 46 years', and refusing to take the advice and assistance of both myself, the security staff and the police that then attended."

Lord Maginnis was formerly an Ulster Unionist Party MP and later represented the party in the Lords.

In 2012, he announced his decision to resign his membership after the leadership distanced themselves when he referred to gay marriage as "unnatural and deviant behaviour".

Lord Maginnis later told the BBC he was not displaying his security pass at the time and admitted that he got "cross" when staff insisted that he take it out of his bag and show it to them.

He explained that doing so would cause him pain due to his arthritis, adding he had difficulty with balance because of nerve damage in his legs and feet.

But Lord Maginnis told reporters he believed the SNP MP's complaint was motivated by his stance on gay marriage.

He has been approached for comment.

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