Anthony Lester, Baron Lester of Herne Hill

Anthony Paul Lester, Baron Lester of Herne Hill, QC (3 July 1936 – 8 August 2020) was a British barrister and member of the House of Lords.[1] He was at different times a member of the Labour Party, Social Democratic Party and the Liberal Democrats.[2] Lester was best known for his influence on race relations legislation in the United Kingdom and as a founder-member of groups such as the Institute of Race Relations, the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination and the Runnymede Trust. Lester was also a prominent figure in promoting birth control and abortion through the Family Planning Association, particularly in Northern Ireland. Lester resigned from the House of Lords after accusations of historic sexual harassment were made by Jasvinder Sanghera.

The Lord Lester of Herne Hill

Official portrait of Lord Lester of Herne Hill crop 2.jpg
Lord Lester of Herne Hill's official parliamentary photo
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
13 October 1993 – 12 December 2018
Life Peerage
Personal details
Born(1936-07-03)3 July 1936
Died8 August 2020(2020-08-08) (aged 84)
OccupationPolitician, lawyer

Early life and educationEdit

Lester was born into a Jewish family[3] and was educated at the City of London School. He then studied history and law at Trinity College, Cambridge, and Harvard Law School, graduating with Bachelor of Arts and Master of Laws degrees respectively.[4]

Legal careerEdit

Lester was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1963[4] and took silk in 1975.[5] In 1987, he was appointed as a recorder[6][7][8] and was in office until 1993.[4] As a barrister he worked from Blackstone Chambers. He was appointed adjunct professor of the Faculty of Law at University College Cork in 2005.

Race relationsEdit

In the 1960s and 1970s Lester was directly involved with the drafting of race relations legislation in Britain. During these periods, he acted as the chair of the legal subcommittee of the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination (C.A.R.D.) and was a member of several organisations working for racial equality such as the Society of Labour Lawyers, Fabian Society, Council of the Institute of Race Relations, British Overseas Socialist Fellowship and the National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants.[9] In 1968, he co-founded the Runnymede Trust think-tank with Jim Rose. He was chairman of the Runnymede Trust from 1991 to 1993.

Special adviserEdit

Lester was a special adviser to Roy Jenkins at the Home Office in the 1970s, and moved with Jenkins from the Labour Party to found the SDP in 1981. On 29 June 2007, Lester was appointed by Gordon Brown as a special adviser on constitutional reform to the Secretary of State for Justice.[10] Lester was a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Family Planning AssociationEdit

Lester was a patron of the Family Planning Association, previously called the National Birth Control Committee.


Lester's peerage was announced on 13 August 1993.[11] He was raised to the peerage as Baron Lester of Herne Hill, of Herne Hill in the London Borough of Southwark on 13 October 1993.[12][13]

Until a sexual harassment complaint was made in February 2018 Lester sat as a Liberal Democrat.[14]

On 12 November 2018, the House of Lords Committee for Privileges and Conduct made a recommendation that he be suspended from the House of Lords until June 2022 as a result of a complaint of sexual harassment[15] from Jasvinder Sanghera.[16] On 15 November 2018, by a vote of 101–78, the House of Lords referred the matter back to the Committee for Privileges and Conduct on the ground that the Commissioner for Standards had failed to act in accordance with the principles of natural justice and fairness.[17][18] After the matter was remitted to the Committee, the Senior Deputy Speaker (the Chairman of the Committee) expressed his disappointment at the decision of the House, saying that the Commissioner had "followed the processes as agreed by the House and that have not been questioned before today."[19] The report of the Commissioner for Standards had responded to various criticisms of the fairness of the process.[15]

Lester resigned from the House of Lords on 12 December 2018.[20] He said that he lacked the strength or health to continue, after the Committee disagreed with the House's conclusion regarding the fairness of the process and renewed the recommendation of his suspension until June 2022.[21] Notwithstanding his retirement, the House subsequently confirmed the Committee's recommendation.[22]

In April 2019, he joined The Independent Group.

Personal lifeEdit

Lord Lester of Herne Hill was the father of Gideon Lester and of Maya Lester QC.[23]

Lester died on 8 August 2020, at the age of 84.[24]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Lord Lester of Herne Hill". UK Parliament. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Gloger, Dana (11 July 2008). "Aye! To 150 years of Jewish MPs". The Jewish Chronicle.
  4. ^ a b c "Anthony Paul Lester, Baron Lester of Herne Hill". The Peerage. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  5. ^ "No. 46547". The London Gazette. 18 April 1975. p. 5024.
  6. ^ "No. 51106". The London Gazette. 29 October 1987. p. 13339.
  7. ^ "No. 51112". The London Gazette. 5 November 1987. p. 13635.
  8. ^ "No. 51117". The London Gazette. 11 November 1987. p. 13885.
  9. ^ Heineman, Benjamin W. (1972). The Politics of the Powerless: A Study of the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination. London, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 157.
  10. ^ "Brown unveils new faces". 29 June 2007. Archived from the original on 1 July 2007. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ "No. 53400". The London Gazette. 13 August 1993. p. 13487.
  12. ^ "No. 53461". The London Gazette. 19 October 1993. p. 16771.
  13. ^ "No. 23463". The Edinburgh Gazette. 19 October 1993. p. 3217.
  14. ^ "Peer faces suspension over sex claims case". BBC News. 12 November 2018. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  15. ^ a b Committee for Privileges and Conduct (2018). The conduct of Lord Lester of Herne Hill (PDF). House of Lords. HL Paper 220.
  16. ^ Elgot, Jessica; Walker, Peter (13 November 2018). "Lord Lester harassment victim urges others to speak out". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  17. ^ Mikhailova, Anna (14 November 2018). "Up to 100 peers expected to try and block Lord Lester's suspension for sexual harassment". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  18. ^ "Committee for Privileges and Conduct: Division 1". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Lords. 15 November 2018.
  19. ^ Hartley-Parkinson, Richard (16 November 2018). "Anger as House of Lords blocks suspension of Lord Lester of Herne Hill". Metro. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  20. ^ "Lord Lester of Herne Hill". UK Parliament.
  21. ^ "Lord Lester resigns from the House of Lords ahead of suspension vote". Irish Legal News. 12 December 2018. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  22. ^
  23. ^ Trindle, Jamila (2 May 2014). "Can I Pay You in Rubles?". FP.
  24. ^ Ames, Jonathan (10 August 2020). "Lord Lester of Herne Hill, human rights lawyer who quit Lords in sex scandal, dies at 84". The Times. (subscription required)

External linksEdit

  • Odysseus Trust – supporting the work of Anthony Lester in the House of Lords
Party political offices
Preceded by
Brian Abel-Smith
Treasurer of the Fabian Society
Succeeded by
Giles Radice
Preceded by
Peter Hall
Chair of the Fabian Society
Succeeded by
Frank Judd