Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says he had been aware of “indirect and non-specific concerns” in 2008 about alleged inappropriate behaviour by Liberal Democrats’ former chief executive Lord Rennard.
Nick Clegg’s statement regarding the allegations surrounding Lord Rennard:
The allegations made on Channel 4 concerning Lord Rennard last Thursday were extremely serious and distressing to the women involved.
It is critical they are investigated thoroughly and dealt with properly and they will be.
But I would like to make one thing crystal clear. I did not know about these allegations until Channel 4 informed the party of them shortly before they were broadcast.
I have today spoken to one of the women in the broadcast who I respect and admire and who confirmed that she had never raised the issue with me.
I am angry and outraged at the suggestion that I would not have acted if these allegations had been put to me. Indeed, when indirect and non-specific concerns about Chris Rennard’s conduct reached my office in 2008, we acted to deal with them.
Video: watch Cathy Newman’s exclusive report about Lord Rennard allegations
My Chief of Staff at the time, Danny Alexander, put these concerns to Chris Rennard and warned him that any such behaviour was wholly unacceptable. 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.
It is incorrect to state that there was any other separate inquiry by my office or anybody in it.
Lord Rennard statement:
"I absolutely deny any suggestion of improper touching, nor did I invite a woman to join me in my room.
"I note that these alleged instances supposedly took place in public bars with other people present.
"I am disappointed and angry that anonymous accusations from several years ago are once again being made public in this manner in a clear attempt to damage my reputation.
"Let me reiterate that in 27 years working for the Liberal Democrat party, not a single personal complaint was ever made against me to my knowledge."
I recognise from the Channel 4 broadcast that there are legitimate concerns that issues raised with the party were not handled as well as they should have been.
In particular the suggestion that a complaint was made but was not dealt with as a formal complaint. I am therefore determined that we carry out a thorough investigation into our procedures and how we applied them at the time to ensure we have a full and clear picture of what happened and the lessons that we need to learn. This review will be independently chaired.
A separate investigation into the specific allegations about Lord Rennard will take place under our disciplinary procedure. It is essential that this is carried out with due process and for that reason I cannot provide a running commentary on it.
But I am absolutely determined that both these investigations will be carried out thoroughly and comprehensively. These investigations may well reveal flawed procedures, and clearly the women concerned feel they were not properly listened to.
But I totally reject the insidious suggestion that my office or I are responsible in any way for a deliberate cover up.
The full truth of what happened and what failed to happen and who said what to whom will be revealed by these investigations.
But in the meantime, I will not stand by and allow my party to be subject to a show trial of innuendo, half-truths and slurs. The important thing is that we respect the women who have come forward and do everything to get to the truth. That is what will now happen.
Danny Alexander said: “As I said yesterday, I did not know about these specific allegations until the Channel 4 broadcast.
“When indirect and anonymous concerns about Chris Rennard’s conduct came to the attention of Nick Clegg’s office, in late 2008, we acted immediately.
“As Nick’s chief of staff, I put these concerns to Chris Rennard in strong terms and warned him that any such behaviour was wholly unacceptable.
“Chris Rennard categorically denied that he had behaved inappropriately as he continues to do. Chris Rennard subsequently resigned as chief executive on health grounds.
“As these concerns were received indirectly and anonymously, as those involved understandably wanted to maintain privacy, there was a limit to how we could take this matter forward following Chris Rennard’s resignation.
“The party has rightly set up inquiries into these matters and I will participate fully in those processes.”