Labour peers face inquiry over 'cash for influence' report

Ex-ministers are accused of offering to amend bills in return for hefty payments

Four Labour peers could face a police investigation into accusations that they offered to amend proposed legislation in return for payments of up to £120,000. The House of Lords will today launch an investigation into the claims against the four, who include three former government ministers.

The allegations, which echo the cash-for-questions scandal that engulfed the Conservatives in the 1990s, will lead to renewed criticism of the lax controls over peers' business interests. The Labour leader in the Lords, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, admitted it would be "very grim" if the allegations were proven. The Liberal Democrats will today ask Scotland Yard to investigate the claims – strongly refuted by all four peers – under anti-bribery legislation.

Undercover reporters posing as lobbyists approached 10 peers and asked for help to get a planning Bill changed on behalf of a fictitious client who hoped to open a chain of shops. Four Labour members of the House of Lords allegedly responded to the approach.

According to The Sunday Times, Lord Taylor of Blackburn negotiated an annual fee of £120,000 for trying to amend the Bill and claimed to have helped changed the law for a credit card company that he represented.

Lord Truscott of St James, a former energy minister, allegedly quoted a sum of £72,000 for a similar service. According to the newspaper, he told its reporters that he was able to influence the Energy Bill to benefit a client selling "smart" electricity meters.

Lord Moonie, a former defence minister, reportedly offered to help for an annual fee of £30,000, adding that he could identify colleagues who would table an amendment to the planning Bill. Lord Snape, a former Labour whip, allegedly quoted a sum of £24,000 and also offered find someone to amend the Bill. Offering to amend Bills in return for cash is a breach of the "no paid advocacy" rules governing conduct in the Lords. Anyone breaking the guidelines can be "named and shamed" in the chamber but cannot be suspended or expelled from Parliament.

Baroness Royall stressed there should be no rush to judge anyone and suggested the peers might have been "entrapped" by the paper.

Lord Taylor said he was approached by two people claiming to work for a lobbying company who offered to take him on as an adviser at a fee of between £5,000 to £10,000 a month. "It was their suggestion, not my suggestion. I never said I would accept it," he said, adding that no contract was signed and no money changed hands.

Lord Truscott explained that he had offered advice to the reporters so "they could lobby to make amendments". He said: "To suggest I would table an amendment for money is a lie."

Lord Moonie said: "No contract was offered and I have not had a chance to speak to the registrar about it, as I would have done had I intended to take on work of this kind."

Lord Snape said he had made clear he was unable to "initiate or amend any legislation on behalf of an individual or company". The Lords privileges committee will begin an inquiry into the accusations today, and the claims are certain to be debatedin the House this afternoon. Baroness Royall will also speak again to the the four peers.

The Liberal Democrats called for a police investigation. Chris Huhne, the party's home affairs spokesman, said: "If these allegations are confirmed, they are not merely a breach of the Lords' own rules but are surely also against the law on corrupt practices. Ex-ministers should not be touting themselves like taxi drivers for hire.

"The police should interview those who have been named and investigate whether they have used parliamentary procedures – including questions or the tabling of amendments – to further the interests of their clients.

Kenneth Clarke, the shadow Business Secretary, said if the allegations were proven, they amounted to corruption.

Under fire: Labour peers in the spotlight

LORD TRUSCOTT OF ST JAMES

Peter Truscott, 49, is a former MEP and energy minister. He was one of Tony Blair's special envoys to Russia. He became MEP for Hertfordshire in 1994 and was made a life peer in 2004. He has seven consultancies and four non-executive directorships and is an advisor to Gazprom in Russia.

LORD MOONIE OF BENNOCHIE

Lewis Moonie, 61, is a strong ally of Gordon Brown. Ennobled in 2005, Lord Moonie earns £35,000-£40,000 to lobby for Edinburgh-based Americium Developments. He is on advisory boards of Northrop Grumman IT and software company Perseus Global, and is senior advisor to Pharmathene Ltd.

LORD SNAPE OF WEDNESBURY

*Peter Snape, a 66-year-old former railwayman, is a friend of John Prescott and veteran of Labour politics in the West Midlands. He was MP for West Bromwich East for 27 years, and spent four years as a whip. He is consultant to transport company First Group, manufacturing firm Sterling Lloyd, and Halton Gill Associates.

LORD TAYLOR OF BLACKBURN

Thomas Taylor, 79, a former magistrate, was an expert on school management. He sat on the Lancaster University council for more than 30 years and was a Blackburn councillor from 1954 to 1976. He is friends with Jack Straw. He lists five consultancies, is president of Wren's Hotel group, and holds three non-executive directorships.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Foundation Phase Teacher required

£90 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Exciting opputunities availabl...

Learning Support Assistant

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

Learning Support Assistant - Newport

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

Operations Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am currently recruiting for an Operati...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz