Two peers suspended from the House of Lords after offering to do paid work for undercover reporters

Lord Mackenzie and Lord Laird both face temporary bans after being caught by Sunday Times journalists

Two peers are set to be banned from the House of Lords after undercover reporters recorded them offering to do paid parliamentary work.

The Lords Conduct Committee has recommended that the Labour peer Lord Mackenzie is suspended for six-months, while Ulster Unionist Lord Laird faces a four-month ban.

An investigation by The Sunday Times where reporters posed as consultants from a fictitious South Korean energy firm exposed the pair.

The peers discussed the creation of an all-party group on solar energy with the journalists.

In the Sunday Times report published last June, Lord Mackenzie also said he had devised a plan to get round the ban on members hosting parliamentary events for organisations in which they had a financial interest by getting another peer to do it for him.

Lord Laird was said to have told the paper's reporters that he swapped the task of asking parliamentary questions for paying clients with other peers.

In a separate investigation by the BBC Panorama programme and The Sunday Telegraph, undercover footage showed Lord Laird discussing setting up an all-party group on Fiji.

Lord Cunningham, a former Labour cabinet minister, who also featured in the Sunday Times report, was cleared of breaching the rules, as was former Labour minister Lord O'Neill, who was investigated by the paper but not included in its report.

All four referred themselves to the Lords Commissioner for Standards following the undercover investigation.

Lord Mackenzie said he was disappointed with the ruling and apologised for any “unwitting” breaches of the Lords Code of Conduct.

“There was no financial gain by me and all of this resulted from a 45-minute conversation which was not instigated by me,” he said.

He added he had learned a lesson from the “fraudulent interview” and said that he ended the conversation by asking the reporters to outline what they had discussed with him and that he would “consider it further”.

“I would suggest that this was not a request that would be made by someone intending to break the rules,” he said.

The Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt said the party leadership will reflect on the report from the Committee before deciding what happens after Lord Laird’s ban is lifted.

“This is a severe sanction, reflecting a very serious lapse in judgment by Lord Laird,” he said.

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