Nick Clegg has ruled out Lord Rennard playing a role in his 2015 election campaign, despite the senior peer being told he will not face disciplinary action over sexual harassment claims.
However, the party’s former chief executive is set to return to a key Liberal Democrat committee.
An investigation by a leading QC concluded there was a less than 50 per cent chance that the allegations involving female activists could be proved beyond reasonable doubt, but there was credible evidence of “behaviour which violated the personal space and autonomy of the complainants”.
The report suggested Lord Rennard should apologise and make a “commitment to change his behaviour”.
The inquiry into the allegations, by Alistair Webster QC, followed a decision by the Metropolitan Police last year not to press charges.
Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader Mr Clegg said: “People in positions of authority should never subject anyone to behaviour which is offensive or inappropriate. It is as simple as that. I want everyone to be treated with respect in the Liberal Democrats.
“That is why it is right that Chris Rennard has been asked in the report to apologise, to reflect on his behaviour and why he won’t be playing any role in my general election plans for the campaign in 2015.”
Lord Rennard was elected to the Lib Dems’ Federal Policy Committee (FPC) for a two-year term in 2012, before the allegations against him were reported on Channel 4 News. While he has not attended FPC meetings since the claims arose, it is understood he intends to resume his work on the committee until his term expires later this year.
The Lib Dems were accused of “cowardice” by Alison Goldsworthy, one of the activists who made claims against Lord Rennard. Mr Clegg admitted the party’s rules had been “found wanting” and Lib Dem president Tim Farron was reviewing the disciplinary procedures.
Mr Clegg said: “It’s clear in the report that a number of women in the Liberal Democrats were subject to behaviour, by someone who had a position of considerable authority, which caused them real distress. That should not have happened and I want to apologise to each and every one of those women again.
“I am not content with the fact a report concludes that – while of course we should respect the outcome of the report – nonetheless the system is such that someone has been asked to apologise, distress has been caused, and yet there are no sanctions which can be applied.”
Lord Rennard, 53, welcomed the end of the process which had begun almost a year ago.
He said: “I am pleased that this brings to an end all investigations concerning allegations made against me on Channel 4 News last February. The Metropolitan Police also investigated the allegations thoroughly and over several months and found there was no case to proceed.”
He added: “I now look forward to resuming my roles within the Liberal Democrats.”