MPs call for urgent honours reform

MPs are set to call on the prime minister to reform honours law immediately in a bid to prevent corruption.

The public administration committee will publish its long-awaited report into the cash-for-honours inquiry tomorrow and is set to make 44 recommendations to the prime minister.

According to the Guardian, which has seen an advance copy of the 91-page report, MPs will say political parties broke the spirit of the law, even if the crown prosecution service (CPS) failed to bring any changes at the end of the 19-month criminal inquiry.

The report is expected to defend Scotland Yard’s handling of the inquiry, which saw 136 people interviewed and four arrested, as MPs judged it would have been difficult for prosecutors to prove an 80-year-old corruption law.

Scotland Yard would have had to catch donors and party officials “red handed” to bring charges under the current law, MPs said.

To this end, it recommends Gordon Brown acts immediately to make the honours system more transparent; including publishing a list of nominees, foregoing the right to appoint the people that vet nominations to the House of Lords and renouncing his own right to create peerages.

The committee is also set to suggest the “marketable value” of peerages could be reduced by removing the automatic right to sit in the Lords.

The report is expected to support tougher powers for the Electoral Commission, but will not explicitly criticise it for failing to clarify the meaning of a commercial loan.

A new corruption act should also be introduced in order to hold MPs and peers liable for corruption charges, MPs will say.

Chaired by Labour MP Tony Wright, the committee is expected to conclude all its recommendations are feasible if the prime minister shows the political will.

The committee began its investigation in March 2006 after it emerged four businessmen who funded Labour’s 2005 election campaign through undeclared “commercial loans” went on to be nominated for peerages by Tony Blair.