Two peers face suspension over “cash for amendments”

May 14, 2009 at 12:45 pm Leave a comment

Lord Taylor and Lord Truscott

The House of Lords committee on privileges has found that members of the House broke the code of conduct.

The Committee considered a report from the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Interests on the conduct of Lord Moonie, Lord Snape, Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor of Blackburn, all Labour peers.

The report arises out of allegations made against the four Members in The Sunday Times on 25 January 2009, which subsequently formed the basis of a complaint.

Reporters posing as lobbyists for a foreign company looking to set up a chain of shops in the UK approached several peers to see if they would accept bribes to help the company obtain an exemption from the Business Rates Supplements Bill.

Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor of Blackburn were accused by The Sunday Times of being willing to change laws in exchange for cash.

Today the committee recommended they be suspended from the House for up to six months – peers will vote on the sanction next week.

If the Lords approve they will be the first suspensions for at least 300 years.

Lord Moonie and Lord Snape were cleared of wrongdoing but will be invited to make an apology to the Lords.

In the case of Lord Snape, the commmittee said he did not express “clear willingness” to exercise parliamentary influence in return for financial inducement, and so fail to act on his personal honour, in breach of paragraph 4(b) of the Code of Conduct.

“However, we consider that many of the remarks made by him in the course of his conversation with the journalists demonstrated an inappropriate attitude to the rules governing the conduct of Members.

“We therefore invite Lord Snape to make a personal statement of apology to the House.”

The committee said Lord Truscott offered services that amounted to breaches of the prohibition in the Code on “exercising parliamentary influence” in return for financial inducement.

“They reject his defence, that throughout these conversations he was maintaining a clear distinction between the legitimate provision of advice to lobbyists, and personal involvement amounting to “paid advocacy”.

“They conclude that throughout his conversations he was motivated by his desire “to win a lucrative contract with the lobbyists.””

Lord Taylor’s evidence to the committee was branded “inherently so implausible that we do not find ourselves able to attach much weight to it, particularly when it is set alongside the strength of the evidence to be found so abundantly in the transcripts of his meetings with the undercover journalists.”

“We therefore uphold the finding of the Sub-Committee that Lord Taylor of Blackburn, in his conversations with the undercover journalists, failed to act on his personal honour, in breach of paragraph 4(b) of the Code of Conduct,” the committee said.

Lord Strathclyde, leader of the Conservatives in the Lords. said the report is “a bleak day” in the history of the Lords.

“The allegations were serious. They needed, and got, an exhaustive examination in which those under investigation had full opportunity to put their point of view,” he said.

“The findings were clear. The attitudes and actions revealed fell short of what both Parliament and the country is entitled to expect. The sentences proposed are very severe. But they are in my view fully deserved.”

Click here to read the report in full.


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