Peers forced to prove how popular they are

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Members of the House of Lords face an unwelcome popularity test because new rules will force them to publicly declare the names and financial interests of their friends.

Many fear the privacy of their social circles is in jeopardy because a new code of conduct, pushed through by the Government this week, requires them to 'out' neighbours, school friends and dining partners.

Some peers, including Lady Park, the Tory peer and former diplomat, say they have too many friends to register but some cross-bench peers are proposing to send in lists of people they cannot count as friends.

Lady Park said: "I was a diplomat for 30 years and have lots of friends from that world. A lot of my graduates still write to me and become close friends. All these areas produce new circles of friends. I have no idea what shares my friends hold. You don't sit down and solemnly say to them 'What are your business interests?"

Lord Strathclyde, the Tory leader in the Lords, said the code penalised popular peers. He said: "If you have no friends and no relatives and not many interests you seem to be ideal for the House of Lords."