Hughes call over Rennard inquiries

Andover Advertiser: Lord Rennard said he is 'deeply shocked' by the allegations, which he 'strongly disputes' Lord Rennard said he is 'deeply shocked' by the allegations, which he 'strongly disputes'

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes has appealed for the media not to "second guess" the outcome of inquiries into allegations of sexual harassment against Lord Rennard after Nick Clegg admitted knowing five years ago of concerns about the peer.

The former president of the Liberal Democrats said pre-empting the two investigations into the allegations would be unfair to the complainants and to Lord Rennard.

"The whole purpose of setting up two inquiries now is to go into both the process and the substance of the complaints - the substance of the complaints against a former party employee who denies them completely, and the process which deals with how they were dealt with if they were made and if they were made to individuals some years ago," he told BBC Breakfast.

"The individuals' specific complaints came to light in the last few days, the inquiries were announced immediately."

His remarks come as the Liberal Democrat leader issued a dramatic clarification after days insisting he was unaware of claims before Channel 4 News raised them last week.

In a statement on Sunday night, Mr Clegg said his office had heard "indirect and non-specific concerns" about the then-party chief executive's conduct in 2008, and "acted to deal with them".

His chief of staff Danny Alexander - now Chief Secretary to the Treasury - confronted Lord Rennard with the claims and "warned him that any such behaviour was wholly unacceptable".

Mr Clegg went on: "Chris Rennard categorically denied that he had behaved inappropriately and he continues to do so. He subsequently resigned as chief executive on health grounds.

"As my office only received concerns indirectly and anonymously, as those involved understandably wanted to maintain their privacy, there was a limit to how we could take this matter forward following Chris Rennard's resignation."

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