Lords banned from parliamentary lobbying

By Alex Stevenson

Members of the House of Lords will no longer be permitted to work as “parliamentary consultants” under a major reform of the upper House’s code of conduct.

The biggest shake-up of the Lords’ code of conduct since 2001 will also see the appointment of an independent commissioner for standards to investigate allegations of misconduct and force all peers to sign an undertaking to abide by the code.

Baroness Royall, the leader of the Lords, had asked Lord Eames to chair a review after two Labour peers, Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor, were suspended for six months.

They had suggested to journalists acting undercover as lobbyists they would be prepared to lay amendments to bills in return for cash.

“We think that our proposals mark a fundamental step forward for the House of Lords, creating a more rigorous, enforceable and transparent set of rules for members’ conduct,” Lord Eames said.

Leader’s group chairman Lord Eames explains his proposals to reform the Lords’ code of conduct:

Eight peers are already registered as parliamentary consultants. They are likely to be forced to abandon their jobs.

The group will require peers who are employed as a non-parliamentary public affairs consultant to list the agency directly employing them and their clients in the register of members’ interests.

Members should not be allowed to accept any financial reward in return for parliamentary advice or services to outside bodies outright, however.

“We were very anxious in drawing up this new approach to the code… that we wanted to give peers of the House of Lords something to recognise what was expected of them,” Lord Eames added.

“We are trying to remove discrepancies and trying to remove vagueness.”

Baroness Hamwee, another member of the group, said: “It’s a matter of clarity where there was some confusion before.”

The new code of conduct retains the previous requirement that peers “act always on their personal honour”. It was on the grounds of breaking this that Lords Truscott and Taylor were suspended.

Lord Eames admitted the group had “debated long and hard” about whether the concept of personal honour retained any “relevance”.

“We concluded that it did, but that to give it new life we also had to be able to say to members, look, here is your signature,” he said.

A separate review conducted by the senior salaries review body examining expenses in he upper House will be published shortly.