Peerages for cronies row grows as Paisley nominates his wife

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The Independent Online

Opposition politicians said the honours system had descended into farce as the list also revealed Dr Ian Paisley, leader of the DUP, has nominated his wife, Eileen, for a peerage.

The forthcoming list also includes Labour and Tory donors such as Robert Edmiston, a multimillionaire Christian philanthropist who gave £250,000 to the Conservatives last year.

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, a senior Liberal Democrat peer and a former member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Lords Reform, said: "If these appointments are confirmed, Britain's appointments system will sink to a grubby farce unworthy of a 21st-century democracy. Party leaders must stop picking peers personally, and Mr Blair must honour his pledge of a free vote on the reform of the House of Lords, including methods of election."

The Greens, who have only one peer, gain a second seat in the Lords. Hugo Charlton, a prominent Green Party activist and lawyer, has been nominated. The leaked papers say he was proposed by "Mr Hugo Charlton". Michael Meacher, a former Labour minister, said the revelation "reduces the whole process to an eccentric and self-serving farce". He added: "It is a mockery. Either these systems must be properly regulated and controlled or [they] should be abolished."

The Green Party, which has called for reform of the Lords, does not officially have a leader because of its opposition to hierarchical structures. Mr Charlton, the chair of the Green Party's executive committee, is registered as the leader in order to comply with electoral law. Yesterday he refused to comment.

But proposing himself is likely to cause consternation among Green members. The Greens were given an extra peer to reflect their improved showing at recent elections.

The Liberal Democrats, also underrepresented in the Lords, gain five new peers some of whom are former MPs. The DUP will gain three new peers, including Mrs Paisley, who is vice-president of the DUP and active in politics.

Among Tory donors on the list, Robert Edmiston amassed an estimated £260m as a car importer and from property. He has said he aims to hand £100m to charity, adding: "I can't spend it all and I can't take it with me."

The Tory party treasurer, Jonathan Marland, who has given almost £110,000 to the party, has also been recommended for a peerage. David James, the troubleshooter brought in to stop the Dome going into receivership and who drew up the Tory blueprint for cutting costs in Whitehall before the election, is to be made a peer. Sandip Verma, a businesswoman who fought Wolverhampton South-west for the Tories at the last election, also gets a peerage.

Last week, The Independent on Sunday revealed that Labour donors, including Sir Gulam Noon, who made millions from ready-meals, are to be given peerages. Sir Bill Morris, the retired T&G leader, is also to join Labour's ranks in the Lords. Maggie Jones, who stood unsuccessfully for Labour in Blaenau Gwent after being on an all-women shortlist, is also to be honoured.