Clegg calls for ‘quick’ investigation

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The DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg has stated that he wants the investigation into claims a Liberal Democrat peer sexually harassed activists “done as quickly as possible” amid suggestions that five women have come forward and made complaints to Scotland Yard.

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed it is “not prepared to discuss” claims that officers are poised to interview a number of women, who are said to have called a dedicated hotline, in the next few days.

Mr Clegg, who represents the Sheffield Hallam constituency, has been criticised for his handling of the affair.

An initial response from the party suggested that the Deputy Prime Minister was not aware of the allegations, but the party leader later admitted he had known of general concerns.

The Yorkshire MP later conceded that his party made “very serious mistakes” in failing to deal properly with complaints made about the peer.

The news comes after Lib Dem activist Alison Smith, who is now a lecturer at Oxford University, said she planned to talk to police about claims that Lord Rennard behaved inappropriately towards her.

She claims an alleged incident in 2007 was “more serious” than having a hand placed on her knee.

During a visit to the Aston Martin car factory in Warwickshire yesterday, Mr Clegg told reporters that he wanted the investigations into Lord Rennard’s alleged behaviour carried out “as quickly as possible”.

He said: “The key thing, not least for the women involved, is that the investigations get their work done as quickly as possible.

“The important thing is that the two investigations I announced last week are allowed to get on with their work, and that the police investigation is allowed to get on with its work.”

He added: “It’s crucial we get to the bottom of the truth and do that as soon as possible.

“That’s why the investigations should proceed as quickly as possible.”

Lord Rennard, who stepped down as chief executive on health grounds, has said he is ready to “co-operate with any properly-constituted inquiry” into allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

The peer has issued a series of strenuous denials of any wrongdoing.

Scotland Yard officers have met senior representatives from the Liberal Democrat party to investigate whether any criminal activity has taken place and the party has launched two internal inquiries.

Ms Smith said she decided to “blow the whistle” about the peer’s alleged behaviour because he had started to become involved again in training events.

“We were told he was not going to make a comeback, now here he is, turning up all over the place,” she added.

Lord Rennard issued a statement earlier this week after being notified by the party of an internal investigatory panel.

In the statement, Lord Rennard’s spokesman said that he “refutes” the allegations and will co-operate with any inquiry.

The spokesman said: “Lord Rennard refutes these allegations. He will co-operate with any properly constituted inquiry.”

Lord Rennard “notes that under the party rules concerned it is for any case made against him to be proved by evidence to the requisite standard”, according to the spokesman.

“He denies impropriety. He would reiterate that in 27 years of working for the Liberal Democrats he received no complaint or allegation about his behaviour.

“Nor is he aware of any personal complaints being made in the three and a half years since he stood down as chief executive until last week.”