Peers may have to quit lobbying jobs

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Two of Charles Kennedy's frontbench spokesmen could be forced to resign their jobs as political lobbyists under a motion to be debated by delegates at the Liberal Democrat conference tomorrow.

The motion, which will embarrass the party leadership, would ban professional lobbyists from holding any parliamentary post for the Liberal Democrats at Westminster or Strasbourg.

Two of Mr Kennedy's spokesmen in the upper chamber, Lord McNally, a home affairs spokesman, and Lord Clement-Jones, the party's health spokesman, would be affected by the move, which is designed to "ensure transparency of parliamentary procedures". They would be forced to sever their ties with lobbying firms within two years to ensure that no conflict of interest arises.

Staff working for Liberal Democrat MPs or peers would also be banned from consultancy work with lobbying firms.

"Conference believes that the roles of parliamentarian and professional political lobbyist must be separated to ensure transparency of parliamentary procedures," the motion says. "Conference respectfully requests that those current Liberal Democrat parliamentarians or their staff who financially benefit from professional political lobbying should cease to do so within two years."

Party sources said that if the motion is passed, the possible conflicts of interest will be addressed by Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords as soon as Parliament returns. Peers will be expected to follow the example of Lord Newby, Charles Kennedy's chief of staff, who has resigned his directorship of the Flagship Group.

The conference will also hear renewed calls for the legalisation of marijuana. A fringe debate was expected to call last night for the legalisation of "all drugs now".

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