Cash-for-query scandal hits Britain
Three Lords wanted money to ask Parliamentary questions London (PTI): Britain's lobbying scandal has got murkier after three Peers were secretly...
Three Lords wanted money to ask Parliamentary questions London (PTI): Britain's lobbying scandal has got murkier after three Peers were secretly filmed by reporters offering to ask parliamentary questions, lobby ministers and host events on the House of Lords terrace for money. The Sunday Times, posing as a South Korean solar energy company, filmed Lord Cunningham, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate and Lord Laird as they revealed their readiness to wield their influence in the halls of power to paying clients. MP Patrick Mercer already resigned as the Tory party's whip after claims by the BBC that he broke Parliament's lobbying rules. It is alleged he accepted A�4,000 to lobby for business interests in Fiji. Mercer said he was taking legal advice and had referred himself to Parliament's standards commissioner. Laird and Mackenzie revealed how some Peers were colluding to hide their conflicts of interest from public scrutiny by striking secret deals in which they pulled strings in parliament for each other's clients. Cunningham, who as Jack Cunningham had been Labour's Cabinet Office minister, offered to write directly to the Prime Minister to push the company's agenda, the report said. Cunningham, a privy counsellor who led the joint committee on Lords reform under Tony Blair, asked for a fee totalling A�144,000 a year to provide a personal lobbying service. "Are you suggesting A�10,000 a month?" he asked. "Make that....12,000 a month. I think we could do a deal on that," Cunningham was quoted by the paper as saying. He told the reporters, posing as representatives of a South Korean company, that he would advise them on parliamentary affairs and be their advocate at Westminster. He said he could also host receptions on the terrace for the reporters and their fake client so they could "mingle" with politicians. Mackenzie, Blair's former law and order adviser who was once a chief superintendent in Durham police, explained how he had devised a ruse that allowed him to host events for paying clients. Mackenzie was also happy to ask questions and approach ministers in the Lords to "bend their ear". Laird, the former prominent Ulster Unionist John Laird, told them that he swapped the task of asking parliamentary questions for paying clients with other Lords. He laid bare all the ways he and a "coterie" of friendly Peers could help the reporters lobby for new laws.