Labour peers apologise to Lords over “cash for amendments” scandal

June 4, 2009 at 4:41 pm Leave a comment

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A Labour party member of the House of Lords apologised to fellow peers yesterday for an “inappropriate attitude” to the rules after he was caught in a newspaper sting operation.

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.

Among them was Lord Moonie, a former defence minister and party colleague of the minister responisble for the Bill, John Healey.

The Sunday Times claimed he offered to assist their undercover reporters “in return for an annual fee of £30,000.”

“Moonie said he would contact Healey and offered to identify people who could put down an amendment,” the paper reported in January.

“Moonie is a social friend of Gordon Brown and was ennobled in 2005. He gave up his parliamentary seat reportedly so that Brown could keep his in a boundary change.”

Lord Moonie was cleared of wrongdoing by the Committee for Privileges but was invited to make an apology to the Lords, which he did yesteday.

“My Lords, with the leave of the House, I would like to make a personal statement about the matters raised in the second report of the Committee for Privileges,” he said.

“If any conduct of mine has demonstrated an inappropriate attitude to the rules governing the conduct of Members of this House, I bitterly regret any such conduct, and I am deeply sorry if this has caused embarrassment to this House.”

Last month Lord Snape, a former Labour whip, who The Sunday Times alleged had been willing to help the reporters “amend the bill for a fee of up to £24,000 a year,” also apologised as recommended by the Committee.

He was cleared of wrongdoing.

“My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to make a personal statement about the matters raised in the second report of the Committee for Privileges,” he said.

I express my gratitude to the Privileges Committee for its very careful consideration of this matter.

“I also thank colleagues in all parts of the House for their many expressions of personal support over what has been a very stressful four months.

“I of course accept the House’s findings and apologise to the House for any remarks that I may have inadvertently made in the course of my conversation with the journalists which demonstrated an inappropriate attitude to the rules governing the conduct of Members of this House.”

Two Labour peers have been suspended from the Lords for six months after the House approved sanctions recommended by the Committee for Privileges.

It concluded Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor of Blackburn were willing to change laws in exchange for money, after the sting operation by The Sunday Times.

They both deny the paper’s version of events.

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