LIBERAL Democrat leader Nick Clegg has said he will not back down over his demand for an apology from a peer in a sexual harassment row despite threats of legal action.

Lawyers for the party's former chief executive Lord Rennard had set a deadline of yesterday for the LibDems to lift his suspension or face action in the High Court.

Lord Rennard was suspended on January 20 pending an investigation into whether he had brought the party into disrepute by failing to apologise to a number of women who made complaints against him.

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A QC's inquiry into the allegations concluded the women's claims were credible but there was insufficient evidence to bring disciplinary charges, and suggested that the peer should apologise to them, prompting Mr Clegg to tell Lord Rennard: "No apology, no whip."

The LibDem leader said: "If you have a report, after a meticulous independent process, which says an apology is due because, intentionally or otherwise, distress was caused to these women, I don't think it's unreasonable for me as leader of the party to say that is what should happen."