Oliver Wright: MPs' heads would roll. So why is it different in the Lords?

Their lordships should grasp the nettle and sign up to the Commons rules on lobbying

Share
Related Topics

When the Conservative MPs Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith were revealed to have taken cash from the former Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed to ask questions in the House of Commons it caused a public outcry.

Hamilton lost his seat to the TV journalist-turned-sleaze campaigner Martin Bell, and the scandal led to the creation of the Nolan Committee on standards in public life.

In the 15 years since "cash for questions", the House of Commons has cleaned up its act significantly.

MPs are no longer allowed to lobby for any organisation with in which they have a financial interest.

Or in the language of Parliament, it is "inconsistent with the dignity of the House" for an MP to "advocate or initiate any cause or matter on behalf of any outside body or individual in consideration of any remuneration, fee, payment, or reward or benefit in kind, direct or indirect".

And the penalties for transgression are severe – as the former MPs Stephen Byers and Geoff Hoon found out when they were secretly recorded talking lobbying services they could provide after they stood down as MPs.

But a few hundred yards away from the green benches of the House of Commons, things are rather different. In the House of Lords – which still debates, votes on and influences legislation – rules are less clear.

Yes, peers have to declare their financial interests in the Register of Interests but beyond that it is a free-for-all. One senior Liberal Democrat described the scene in the lobbies and bar of the Lords on occasion as being like a "lobbyist's convention".

Even the Tories accept there is a problem. One said, when the Blencathra case was raised with him: "Oh he isn't the only one."

Blencathra says that he is meticulous in ensuring that he has no conflict of interest between his Cayman role and his duties in the Lords. But he shouldn't have to be. The rules should be clearer in not allowing a conflict of interest in the first place.

Their lordships should grasp the nettle and sign up to the Commons rules on lobbying. Those who refuse should be able to keep their title but stand aside from the legislative business of the house.

It is a simple point: law-makers should not also be lobbyists.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker