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Clegg To Take Action If Rennard Refuses Apology
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has warned Lord Rennard he will face "further action" if he tries to rejoin the House of Lords this afternoon without apologising to women party activists over sexual harassment claims.
Speaking to Sky News the Deputy Prime Minister said that the Liberal Democrat's former chief executive must "do the decent thing" and say sorry to the women.
He said that if he did not do so before rejoining Liberal Democrat group in the House of Lords this afternoon then there was further action the party could take, but pressed on the issue he did not say what this was.
Mr Clegg said: "If he does not (apologise) of course there are more things that can be done and the party is going to have to take further action."
On Sunday, Lord Rennard's legal adviser said that he could take the Liberal Democrats to court if Mr Clegg tried to stop him rejoining the party in Parliament.
Lord Carlile told Sky's Murnaghan programme Lord Rennard was being "lined up against a wall" and said he should not apologise given no allegations against him had been proven.
He also criticised party leader Mr Clegg for rescinding a decision to allow Lord Rennard to re-take the whip in the Lords following the publication of a report into accusations of sexual harassment.
Lord Carlile said: "Here, we have a situation in which there has been found to be no case against Lord Rennard, but he is being lined up against the wall by people who are trying to force him to apologise in a way no lawyer would advise and in which he should not apologise for all kinds of reasons.
"If he has the whip removed from him in inappropriate circumstances then I have absolutely no doubt that Lord Rennard will be taking formal legal advice and the matter could unfortunately end up in the public law courts.
"But nobody wants that to happen and I don't begin to understand why Nick Clegg has intervened after a process which has been concluded in Lord Rennard's favour."
Police investigated claims that Lord Rennard sexually harassed female party activists last year, but decided not to press charges.
An internal inquiry carried out by Alistair Webster QC found there was broadly credible evidence of "behaviour which violated the personal space and autonomy of the complainants".
It concluded that the allegations could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt, so no further action would be taken. However, the QC said that Lord Rennard should apologise to the women who had been distressed by the peer's behaviour.
The Deputy Prime Minister has come under increased criticism over his handling of allegations of sexual harassment, which Lord Rennard denies.
Bridget Harris, a former adviser to Mr Clegg, has quit the party in disgust over its inability to take action against the party's former chief executive.
She told Sky News: "I would welcome the fact that if Lord Rennard was willing to acknowledge and take responsibility for his behaviour that would be a huge step forward.
"What Nick can do, as leader of the Liberal Democrats, is say that Lord Rennard is persona non grata."
The leadership has appealed to its colleagues in the House of Lords to stop Lord Rennard's reinstatement until he apologises. If they decided to withhold the whip then Lord Rennard would likely appeal. This would trigger a vote of the party's peers, which could happen on Wednesday at the earliest.
Danny Alexander said: "He should apologise because he wants to continue to be a member of the Liberal Democrats and this is the recommendation that's been made by the internal disciplinary process, it's as simple as that.
"On the one hand they say the report has cleared him; on the other hand he shouldn't do what the report says. You can't have it both ways."
However, Chris Davies the Liberal Democrat MEP, told BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour on Sunday: "This isn't Jimmy Savile, it is touching someone's leg six years ago, at a meeting, through clothing.
"This is the equivalent of a few years ago, an Italian pinching a woman's bottom. How much more must this man be made to suffer through the media condemnation that comes out day after day fed by the party leadership?"
It has emerged that Lord Rennard, 53, considered offering a general apology to the women for any upset he had caused before he was made aware of the specific allegations which have caused a deep rift in the party.
In a comment made on Facebook the peer said he would not apologise now because it was not justified and there was the possibility of legal action.
Lord Rennard wrote: "I tried to make/consider any apology years ago, but was totally rebuffed by the complainants. One accepted then reneged! An appeal and further legal actions are threatened, so I could not apologise in any event even if justified (which it is not).
"It would damage the women and the party much more if I said any more."
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