Select Committee on Privileges Second Report



The Sub-Committee on Lords' Interests has examined a complaint about Lord Hoyle from the Guardian newspaper. The complaint is that Lord Hoyle took money to introduce a lobbyist for arms companies to Lord Drayson, who was at the time the Minister for Defence Procurement.

The essential facts appear to be as follows. Lord Hoyle has been retained as a consultant to Whitehall Advisers for various periods since 1999. He registered the interest for the periods of his employment. For present purposes the relevant date is June 2005 when Lord Hoyle notified the Registrar of Lords' Interests that he had been re-engaged by Whitehall Advisers as a non-parliamentary consultant, and his register entry was amended accordingly. Later that same month a meeting took place between Lord Hoyle, Mr Michael Wood of Whitehall Advisers, and Lord Drayson. Mr Wood is the lobbyist referred to in the Guardian's complaint. The meeting took place in the House of Lords Guest Room.

The issues  

The Guardian complain that Lord Hoyle arranged the meeting with Lord Drayson at Mr Wood's request but failed to declare to the minister that he was retained and paid by Mr Wood as a consultant. They suggest that Lord Hoyle has at the very least given rise to a perception that he has broken the "no paid advocacy" rule by arranging this meeting: the rule prohibits a Member of the House from promoting any matter in return for payment or other material benefit. They also allege that Lord Hoyle misled the House over the true nature of his paid work for Whitehall Advisers, because he was in fact engaged in advising on or facilitating matters that were essentially parliamentary rather than non-parliamentary in character.

Lord Hoyle denies the allegations made by the Guardian. He says that his consultancy with Mr Wood was properly registered and a matter of public record. He points out that his consultancy did not require him to arrange meetings with ministers and that he was not specifically paid for the purpose of introducing Mr Wood to Lord Drayson. Lord Hoyle says that he cannot recall whether he informed Lord Drayson that he had a retainer from Whitehall Advisers. He disputes the nature and purpose of the meeting with Lord Drayson and says that the meeting was a social rather than a business occasion. He says that Mr Wood is in any case not a lobbyist for the arms' industry but an adviser to the defence and aerospace industries.

Lord Hoyle also says that his consultancy is a non-parliamentary consultancy, based on his experience and knowledge of trade unions, and that he did not give advice to Whitehall Advisers on parliamentary or related issues.

The Sub-Committee's findings

We have considered carefully over a period of months the Guardian's complaint and the evidence they have submitted in support of it, and also Lord Hoyle's rebuttal. In the course of our work some fundamental questions have arisen about the appropriate way to handle complaints against Members of the House. We note that the Committee for Privileges met the day before our final meeting on the Guardian's complaint to review these questions and others, and has undertaken to meet in the near future to consider and give guidance on the handling of complaints.

In the meantime we must settle the matter according to the present rules. We are satisfied that we have received enough written material from both Lord Hoyle and the Guardian to reach a decision without the need to invite them to submit supplementary material or to attend the Sub-Committee in person. We are satisfied that no further investigation is needed.

We note that Lord Hoyle registered properly his connection with Whitehall Advisers and so there can be no criticism that he was trying to hide that relationship. This view is strengthened by the fact that the meeting with the minister took place in the House of Lords Guest Room, which is not a place that would normally be chosen for cloak-and-dagger activities inconsistent with the House's code of conduct.

It is not possible on the basis of the evidence that we have received to know whether Lord Hoyle did disclose his relationship with Whitehall Advisers to Lord Drayson at the meeting. But if he did not do so, then to that extent he was in error, because the House's code of conduct requires Members to disclose relevant interests when communicating with ministers (para. 8(b)).

Members of the House hardly need to be reminded by us that, in the present climate and given the interest in the media and general public about standards of conduct in public life, they should be especially careful to avoid situations that might give rise to a perception of misconduct by them.

Having considered carefully the evidence we have received, we do not believe that there was any deliberate misconduct by Lord Hoyle. So we do not uphold the Guardian's complaint against him. In any event, this is not a case that in our view would warrant any further action against Lord Hoyle.

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