Misbehaving lords could be stripped of peerages
The government could legislate to ensure misbehaving peers are booted out of the Lords, Nick Clegg has suggested, as lobbyists face permanent expulsion from parliament.
The deputy prime minister even suggested action could be taken against peers who do not regularly attend sessions of the upper House in answer to questions from MPs this lunchtime.
His comments came after the weekend's lobbying scandal saw two Labour peers have been suspended from the party after a sting operation caught them on camera offering to act for a foreign energy firm.
"There's no need for a standalone bill on Lords reform, not least because the main reform introducing democracy to the House of Lords has not made progress," Clegg said.
"Where there are specific housekeeping measures in the House of Lords – people who have committed crimes who shouldn't be there, people who've never attended who should have been there, voluntary requirement – if we can sweep that up into a wider bill, for instance on the recall of MPs, we're prepared to look at doing that."
Clegg's spokesperson said the deputy prime minister was "open to ideas" about how to improve the system, after two Labour peers were suspended and one Ulster Unionist peer resigned the whip as a result of lobbying allegations last weekend.
It was made clear any further changes would not feature in standalone legislation following the failure of Lib Dem-led proposals for wholesale reform of the upper House last year.
A Sunday Times sting operation caught Lord Cunningham, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate and Lord Laird telling undercover reporters they could set up an all-party group to represent its interests.
The aide said: "If you give people jobs for life they will continue to take the piss."
Commons Speaker John Bercow has suspended the allocation of parliamentary passes to staff of all-party parliamentary groups (APPG), which now face intense scrutiny.
Eighty-three such passes have already been issued and the MPs who sponsored them have been asked to double-check the credentials of those holding them.
The suspension could turn into an outright ban as the Commons' administration committee, chaired by former deputy Speaker Sir Alan Haselhurst, assesses whether such passes are "necessary or appropriate".
"As Speaker I have long felt that the operation of all-party parliamentary groups needed to be improved to meet the high expectations of transparency and accountability required in public life," Bercow said in a statement earlier.
"To that end the Lord Speaker and I established a review of APPGs in 2011. Recent events have heightened my concern and underlined the need for urgent and effective action."
Kevin Barron, the standards committee chair, has been asked to prioritise his work and put his conclusions to the House of Commons Commission before parliament rises for the summer recess in mid-July.