Lords tightens banqueting guidelines

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Indy Politics
The House of Lords has tightened up its rules over banqueting for companies in the Lords, following claims that some peers charged pounds 1,000 to book rooms for big business, writes Colin Brown.

A Channel 4 Dispatches programme to be broadcast tonight as peers debate moves to tighten up disclosure rules alleges a lobbyist was asked by a peer to pay for booking the Cholmondly Room for a reception for clients. Peers are routinely paid retainers of pounds 5,000 or more by lobby companies.

Lord Peston, a Labour peer and chairman of the refreshment sub-committee of the Lords, said new rules had been put into effect within recent weeks. The rules will not prevent peers with a financial interest from booking banqueting rooms, but would bar any peer who admits they are paid for booking the room. The allegations will heighten concern that the Lords has escaped proper scrutiny while the Nolan Committee has put the spotlight on the Commons.

Peers today will debate proposals by a committee of peers under Lord Griffiths to put their own house in order before the Nolan Committee turns its attention to the Lords. The Griffiths report recommended that peers for the first time should have a register of their interest in lobby companies.

But Lord Richard, an Opposition spokesman, will call for the register to require peers, like MPs, to declare their directorships, land holdings, and paid Parliamentary work.

Some Tory peers are opposed to the register and may seek amendments when the issue is debated again. Dispatches will tonight allege that some senior Tory peers have failed to declare their interests in debates on the environment, waste management and land.