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Monday, January 26, 2009

Underlining the case for reform

Yesterday's allegations that four Labour peers were ready to amend laws for money did more than highlight the rather lax regulations in the House of Lords, they also drew attention to the bizarre practice in both Houses of Parliament whereby it is apparently alright for Parliamentarians to be paid as advisors but not to advocate on behalf of their paymasters. Frankly, it is a very thin line and not a system that should be allowed to continue in my view.

Whether the four Peers stepped over that line or not is a matter for others to determine but the fact that they were drawn into the Sunday Times' web in the first place highlights the confusion that apparently exists over what is acceptable and what is not.

Liberal Democrat Homes Affairs Spokesperson, Chris Huhne has called for a police investigation into the allegations. He is right to do so. However, it should not stop there. There needs to be a fundamental review of the rules so that there is clarity for all of us as to exactly what is allowed and what is not.

Iain Dale reports that Baroness Royall, Leader of the House of Lords told ITV News that "Peers don't get paid so they are free to do consultancy work." Really? Well as Iain points out they do get £330 every time they sign in for duty. But surely this is the problem. The Lords are not properly accountable. The case for a directly elected second House has never been stronger.
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