Lobbying row wrecks peerage chances for Byers, Hewitt and Hoon

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Indy Politics

This week's “cash for access” storm has wrecked the chances of three Labour former Cabinet ministers being awarded peerages, it emerged today.

Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon could have expected a place in the Lords because of the senior posts they held in government.

The three MPs, who were secretly filmed offering to exploit their government expertise for cash, have been suspended from the Labour Party.

Mr Brown will nominate a number of working Labour peers when Parliament is dissolved ahead of the election within the next fortnight. He made clear today that Mr Byers, Ms Hewitt and Mr Hoon, who are all stepping down from the Commons at the election, would not feature on his list.

Asked whether they would become peers, he replied: “Our own party has referred them, the three former ministers, for disciplinary procedures and they are temporarily suspended from the party while we determine what disciplining is necessary.

“What happened was wrong and unacceptable, the public have made up their mind about these kinds of things and I can’t tolerate that sort of behaviour. All of these things will be taken into account when decisions are made.”

Mr Hoon today apologised for his actions, admitting had been “showing off” to an undercover reporter who was pretending to represent a US lobbying company.

In his first interview since Channel 4’s Dispatches programme was screened on Monday, he said: “I certainly got it wrong, I should have known better. I have paid a considerable price since then for the mistake I made in agreeing to what I thought was a private conversation.

“I obviously didn’t know that that private conversation was being filmed and recorded for broadcast and I shouldn’t have said some of the things that I did say.”

The former Defence Secretary told Radio 4’s Today programme: “I recognise that I was guilty of... Showing off, I think is the best expression that I could use. I was trying to impress, I was trying to demonstrate my knowledge and experience, background in a particular sector. I certainly would unreservedly apologise to anyone who feels I have let them down.”

In the secret film Mr Hoon stressed he was not interested in lobbying, discussing instead how he could translate his international knowledge and contacts into “something that, bluntly, makes money”. He even touted himself as an ideal chairman of the board for the fictitious company.

Today he said: “Anyone, I think, about to leave one job not surprisingly would use their knowledge, their experience, their skills drawn from their previous positions to try to earn a living in the future.”

Further details of the sting operation were disclosed yesterday by Pip Clothier, the director and producer of the Dispatches programme.

Writing in the magazine Prospect, he said the veteran Conservative MP Sir John Butterfill had boasted of his close relationship with the shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, claiming: “We get on like a house on fire.” Of David Cameron, a fellow cyclist, Sir John said: “We were always meeting in the changing rooms when were showering because we were hot and sticky when we got in.”

According to Mr Clothier, a fourth former Cabinet minister had a narrow escape after being filmed: “The sound was so poor that we could only hear appetising phrases. He had the good fortune to be sitting in front of a brightly lit window, over-exposing the shot.”

He added: “We just couldn’t understand much of what another former minister said because of his thick accent.”

Mr Clothier said: “I once made an undercover film about Chelsea football hooligans and it was far more difficult to fool them than it was to open up the heart of Westminster.”

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