Peers could face expulsion under proposed rule changes

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Peers face being kicked out for serious breaches of sleaze rules and MPs could be banned from earning extra cash, under plans being considered by the Government.

Ministers are examining the moves as part of efforts to restore public faith in parliament after a series of scandals.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw is urgently preparing measures to beef up the House of Lords conduct regime, for inclusion in the forthcoming Constitution Renewal Bill.

Mr Straw's spokesman confirmed that those who commit the most serious rule breaches could be expelled. Currently the heaviest punishment is being ordered to apologise.

The proposals could also be made retrospective, so they would cover the four Labour peers embroiled in the cash-for-influence row - if allegations against them are proved.

Other disgraced Lords with criminal convictions would also faced being ejected, including author Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare and newspaper mogul Lord Black of Crossharbour.

Jeffrey Archer received a four-year prison sentence for perjury and perverting the course of justice, while Conrad Black has been jailed in the US for fraud.

The Sunday Telegraph claimed that Commons Leader Harriet Harman was considering a draconian ban on outside earnings for MPs.

Ms Harman has been working with Labour Chief Whip Nick Brown on "a range of options" for restricting members' employment, according to the newspaper.

Possibilities include limiting additional earnings to 15% of parliamentary salary, or a partial ban that would rule out paid directorships, but leave MPs able to do other jobs - such as practising as a doctor.

Any move to cut down outside earnings and force MPs to rely on their basic £63,000 salary, plus expenses, would cause uproar in the House.

Opponents will argue that parliament would be filled with career politicians who have no experience of business or professions, and individuals with significant private wealth.

Tory leader David Cameron has consistently fended off pressure to limit the extensive outside work undertaken by his frontbench - notably his effective deputy William Hague.

However, Labour sources told the Sunday Telegraph that Gordon Brown was "clearly sympathetic" when the idea was raised at a meeting of the party's National Executive Committee this week.

Rule changes could be included in the Constitutional Renewal Bill, or made a manifesto commitment at the next general election, the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, another Labour peer was facing questions over his earnings.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate is said to have been paid £616,000 by a firm owned by a Russian Oligarch between 2001 and 2006.

In the Register of Lords Interests the former policeman - who used to advise the Home Office on law and order - states he is a consultant to Inter TV

But according to the News of the World, the company's accounts confirm that he is actually a director of Inter TV.

Under anti-sleaze rules, peers are obliged to declare any paid directorships.

According to the paper, records reveal that Lord Mackenzie's private firm, Framwellgate Properties, received £114,191 from Inter TV in 2006 and £114,835 in 2005. Similar payments were made every year back to 2001.

The owner of the British-based company, Vladimir Gusinsky, fled Russia after falling out with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and being charged with fraud. He has denied the allegations, insisting they were politically motivated.

Lord Mackenzie was at a wedding in India tonight, and could not be contacted for a response to the claims.

Meanwhile, former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey added his voice to calls for peers to be expelled for serious rule breaches.

He also hit out at the Government for carrying out "shambolic and half-hearted reform" that had left the Lords "in limbo".

"For the good name of the House of Lords any peer found guilty of abusing their place for financial gain should be expelled at once," Lord Carey wrote in the NotW.

"That's my view. And I believe there must be a law to that effect without delay.

"Anything less, I fear, will fatally undermine the standing and authority of the Lords - and the vital part they play in our democratic process."

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