Lords propose new curbs on 'sleaze'

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The Independent Online
The House of Lords will next week move a step nearer to having an anti- sleaze code of conduct and register of interests like MPs. Peers will also be told that they should not work for specialist lobbying firms.

The Griffiths inquiry into the rules governing outside financial interests and lobbying in the Lords, which will report on Monday, is likely to be tougher than expected. It will remind peers that they should declare an interest whenever a potential conflict arises, and propose a new register of interests. Taking a lead from the Nolan inquiry into standards of public life, the Griffiths report declares it inappropriate for peers to be retained by parliamentary lobbying companies.

The issue of peers' outside interests arose during the MPs' cash-for- questions controversy last year, most notably with an allegation from Lord Lester that members of the Upper House also asked questions for cash.

The response was to set up a sub-committee of the Procedure Committee, chaired by Lord Griffiths, to be presented on Monday. There will be opposition from many peers, who are proud of their unsalaried "amateur'' status, arguing that the whole purpose of their being in the Upper House is that they have outside interests.

At present peers are expected to declare an interest when they speak if they think there is a conflict. In practice few do so. They will be forcibly reminded of their obligation. If peers agree to set up a register of interests, entries will be voluntary - but it will be a leap forward from the present system where there is often no way of identifying a peer's outside interests. If the Procedure Committee agrees the Griffiths report, it will be published next week or during the summer recess.