Peers must reveal outside interests, says Jay

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Peers should be forced to register their outside interests and declare them when they speak in relevant debates, the Leader of the House of Lords said yesterday.

Peers should be forced to register their outside interests and declare them when they speak in relevant debates, the Leader of the House of Lords said yesterday.

Baroness Jay of Paddington told the Committee on Standards in Public Life that members of the Upper House must be as open as MPs about their earnings. There should also be a Commissioner for Standards to investigate complaints, as there was in the House of Commons.

While recognising that peers were unpaid, unlike MPs, who were salaried, she said anything that might be thought to affect their political judgement must be made clear.

"Ministers believe that registration and declaration of interests should be made compulsory for all peers," she said. "We recognise that peers are unpaid and can be expected to have other interests. In many cases, those outside interests allow peers to speak with expertise and authority. But we are members of Parliament, able to influence legislation and other affairs of state. It is right that the influences that might be thought to affect the way we conduct business should be transparent."

Lady Jay was addressing an inquiry into the House of Lords' code of conduct and registration of interests by the committee, which is chaired by Lord Neill of Bladen. It is considering changes that might be needed as a result of reform of the House, which recently saw the removal of the voting rights of 600 hereditary peers.

Earlier, a senior Labour MP expressed growing concern about "tit-for-tat" trivial complaints against members.

Robert Sheldon, chairman of the House of Commons Standards and Privileges Committee, said that the problem might have implications for the reform of the Lords' register of interests.

"The tit-for-tat situation, where people outside the House of Commons are willing to trip up others, concerns me greatly," he said. "This is getting quite serious, and what we are seeing is that trivial matters are being put forward... You get that particularly in the run-up to a general election."

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