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The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, also advanced a secondary line of argument, and I would like to draw Members’ attention to the closing section of his paper, from paragraph 50 to the end. As recently

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as 1999, the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, while recommending that the House’s power to suspend be “clarified and confirmed”, stated in terms that the House of Lords,

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, says,

The idea that the House has power to put a Member in jail, yet is powerless to impose a relatively short suspension, seems to me to be untenable.

Moreover, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, notes, the decision as to how the House imposes discipline on its Members,

In short, the committee was unanimously persuaded by the arguments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, and concluded, therefore, that the House does have the power to suspend its Members.

Until recently, many of us have felt that standards of conduct in the House were so high and “peer pressure” so potent that the House needed no sanctions for dealing with misconduct other than “naming and shaming”. That was the view of the Committee on Standards in Public Life in 2000 and the view of the Committee for Privileges as recently as last year. But in light of recent events, we can no longer defend that position. We have to get our house in order. It is not just a matter of the conduct of the four Peers. The crisis facing the House has gone far wider than their conduct, and our response similarly must go wider. That is why I urge noble Lords, whatever their views on the second report and on the conduct of the four Peers, to agree the conclusions set out in bold on pages 4 and 5 of the first report, namely that the House has the power to suspend its Members for a defined period, not longer than the remainder of the current Parliament.

I turn now to the committee’s second report, on the conduct of the four Peers. Again, I must, on behalf of the House, express my thanks to the chairman and members of the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Interests. The sub-committee was only appointed on Monday 19 January; less than a week later it found itself in the eye of the storm and engaged in probably the most arduous investigation of its kind ever undertaken by a committee of this House.

I should also like to express our gratitude to the staff of the House, and I personally add my own thanks. An astonishing amount of work has gone into the reports that are before us today. It reminds us how lucky we are in this House to have staff of the quality that we do.

As for the report itself, of course it is long, but I trust that noble Lords will have read it closely. It is accompanied by an even longer evidence volume. Everything has been published; the barest minimum, such as personal contact details, has been redacted. Again, I shall not attempt to summarise or paraphrase the report; it speaks for itself. However, I shall briefly set out the main conclusions and recommendations before closing with some more general comments.

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I turn first to the code of conduct itself. Much of the sub-committee’s time, particularly in the initial stages of the investigation, was spent considering the meaning of certain specific provisions within the code of conduct. The first part of its report sets out its findings, and the Committee for Privileges, in paragraphs 15 to 35 of its report, confirms them. I invite all Members of the House to read the committee’s conclusions carefully. Of particular importance is the third bullet point, which confirms that any Member who expresses,

The code of conduct is not just about registration and declaration of interests; it is about Members’ conduct in their parliamentary duties, which includes the central requirement that Members should act on their personal honour. The no paid advocacy rule is another key provision against which the rest of the code must be read. The House, by agreeing the second report, will demonstrate that it is determined to ensure that the code of conduct is properly and rigorously applied and that it expects high standards of behaviour from its Members.

As for the four Peers, with regard to the noble Lord, Lord Moonie, the sub-committee concluded that there was insufficient evidence to establish that he had expressed a clear willingness to breach the code of conduct. It is clear that some of his comments to the undercover journalists were inappropriate, and he has been invited to make a personal statement of apology to the House, but the report exonerates him of breaching the code of conduct.

Secondly, with regard to the noble Lord, Lord Snape, the sub-committee concluded, on balance of probabilities, that he had expressed a clear willingness to breach the code of conduct, and therefore found that he had failed to act on his personal honour. The Committee for Privileges, having considered the appeal of the noble Lord, Lord Snape, reversed this decision. While clearly he spoke loosely and used inappropriate language, as I think he would acknowledge, we were not persuaded that there was a clear willingness to breach the code. We accordingly exonerated him while recommending that he, too, should make a personal statement of apology to the House.

Finally, I turn to the cases of the noble Lords, Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor of Blackburn. In both cases the sub-committee found that they had expressed a clear willingness to engage in paid advocacy, and concluded therefore that they had failed to act on their personal honour. The Committee for Privileges unanimously endorsed these findings. In the case of the noble Lord, Lord Truscott, the sub-committee stated that,

In the case of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, the sub-committee found that his conversations with the journalists,

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Indeed, the claims of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, to the undercover journalists regarding his past achievements were so outrageous that the sub-committee concluded either that,

or that he was spinning a story, falsely suggesting that he would breach the code in future,

Either way, he failed to act on his personal honour as required by the code.

The appeals made by the noble Lords, Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor, against the sub-committee’s findings entirely failed to persuade the Committee for Privileges. We found them by turns misguided and implausible. We therefore upheld the findings of the sub-committee in full.

This episode has done serious damage to the reputation of the House. We all have responsibility, individually and collectively, to uphold that reputation. That is why personal honour remains the cornerstone of the House’s code of conduct. The noble Lords, Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor of Blackburn, have not, we believe, acted on their personal honour.

I know that one or two noble Lords may be concerned about a guidance note that was issued to the four noble Lords at the start of the investigation, to the effect that the House had no power to suspend its Members. This was standard guidance drawn up last year and subsequently published online. It is clear that the guidance, in stating this view without any qualification, was inaccurate. That is extremely unfortunate, but the fact is that, even as recently as last year, no one could possibly have anticipated the seriousness of the allegations that were made against the four Peers.

That is why the committee has had to look again at the powers of the House and has reached the conclusion set out in the first report. In particular we have concluded that the House has, and has always had, an inherent power to discipline its Members, and that the means by which it chooses to exercise that power falls within the regulation by the House of its own procedures. In accordance with that conclusion, we therefore recommend that the House should suspend the noble Lords, Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor, from the service of the House until the end of the current Session of Parliament.

I commend these two reports to the House, and I beg to move that the first report be agreed to.

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My Lords, we are today at a dark moment for our Parliament and our democracy. The standing of Parliament is diminished, the reputation of parliamentarians is degraded, the trust that people place in Parliament and parliamentarians has sunk like a stone and people’s disgust with Parliament is palpable. Politicians have plunged Parliament and politics to the low at which we find ourselves. Democracy requires the consent of the people for it to function, but we stand at the point where the risk is that we as politicians no longer have the consent required. As a result, not only are our politics, our politicians and our Parliament stained but our very democracy is in danger.

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Our job as politicians and parliamentarians is clear and our duty is obvious; we have to acknowledge that we have not been doing our job properly, apologise for what we have done, make radical changes to ensure that there can never be any repeat and, whenever it comes, await the judgment of the people. As a politician and a parliamentarian, I do not exclude myself from this. We politicians have not been doing our jobs in a way that people would want us to: with honesty, integrity and honour. I am sorry for that, and we all have a clear responsibility to do what we can to set right the wrongs that have taken place.

It is for the Commons to deal with the bulk of these issues, and this week’s events have shown that it is doing so. We have seen the Speaker of the other place announce that he is stepping down, and we have just debated a Statement setting out proposals for extensive reform of both this House and the Commons—crucially, a proposal to consult on a move from a system of self-regulation to independent external regulation. In this House, we announced yesterday that we are commissioning an independent external examination of financial support for Peers including allowances. This and other initiatives are significant steps, and I hope that they will help move Parliament as a whole towards a much better way of handling its affairs in these areas.

There remain particular issues, however, for this House to address and wrongs for it to right. We have before us two reports, as set out for the House by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara. I said to the House last week when we published these reports that I trusted, and knew, that the House would discharge properly the obligations that the reports placed upon it. Now is the moment for us to do so.

I shall address the three issues posed by the reports: first, the question of the sanctions available to this House, which is the subject of the first report; secondly, the conduct of the Members of this House who are the subject of the second report into the allegations made against them by the Sunday Times on 25 January; and, finally, the committee’s conclusions and recommendations in relation to those Members.

On the reports and recommendations on sanctions available to the House, I recognise that the report presents Members with a particular issue: it makes clear that this House has powers that Members may not have realised that it had. Some Members have come to me with a copy of the Companion in one hand, looking in the index in vain for the word “suspension”. Some have been surprised, therefore, that this House has, and has long had, the power to suspend Members.

I understand that point of view and have some sympathy with the perception, but the argument that the Committee for Privileges has put forward in its report is clear and compelling. It concludes that the House does have, and has for long had, the power both to discipline its Members and to suspend them for no longer than the remainder of the current Parliament. The committee had considerable assistance from the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, the Attorney-General, and from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the former Lord Chancellor. I am grateful to them for their advice.

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The House has heard the points made in relation to that advice by the Chairman of Committees, the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, in moving the Motion. The committee had two respectable views before it; one from the Attorney-General, which presented us in essence with a choice, and the other from the former Lord Chancellor. The committee decided on balance that, for the reasons advanced by the former Lord Chancellor, the House did have, and for long has had, the power to suspend a Member for a period within a Parliament on the grounds of misconduct.

This House will take a view on the powers in this area. I hope that it will agree with the report of the Committee for Privileges in relation to the sanctions that it has available, and I strongly urge and recommend that it does so. However, the report also makes it clear that the House has no power by resolution to expel a Member permanently. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Justice said at the time that the allegations were originally made that the Government would if necessary bring forward legislation on this issue, a point made on subsequent occasions to this House by my noble friend Lord Bach.

I now come to the second report of the committee. The material issues there are in relation to the conduct of Members of this House and whether their behaviour constitutes a breach of this House’s code of conduct. Before I address those issues, I turn to the conduct of the Sunday Times newspaper. From the moment at which my office and I became aware of the Sunday Times allegations, which was on the Friday before the Sunday on which they were published, this House has rightly treated those allegations seriously. At no point did we try to dismiss them or suggest that they were without foundation. Indeed, we did the opposite. On the very day that the allegations were published, I wrote to the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, asking her as chair of the sub-committee to investigate them, a point that I was able to reinforce formally some weeks later once the police had made it clear that they did not intend to mount an inquiry into the complaints that they had received in relation to the allegations. I was then able formally to become the complainant to the sub-committee. It is precisely because we have taken these matters seriously and have continued to offer the Sunday Times assistance with legitimate inquiries in line with the other media outlets that I am able to comment further on the behaviour of the Sunday Times.

Like other media organisations and other journalists in similar situations, the Sunday Times claims that the subterfuge of its journalists in masquerading as public affairs consultants who sought to recruit Peers to table amendments on behalf of a commercial client was necessary to demonstrate something which it believed could not be demonstrated in any other way; classically, that the ends justified the means.

I am aware that many Members of this House disagree profoundly with this view. They regard the subterfuge deployed as deceit; they regard the masquerading as something rather more simple—lies— and they regard the action of the Sunday Times as entrapment. I can certainly see the force of those views, especially in the light of the Sunday Times’s

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recent pursuit of Members of this House, which some might regard as proper investigative journalism but others regard as the journalistic equivalent of stalking. I can see why such views are so strongly held by a number of Members of this House.

Some Members accordingly believe that we as a House and I as its Leader have given too much weight and credence to the allegations made by the Sunday Times. They point out with some force that the allegations are exactly like the “cash for questions” allegations, made again by the Sunday Times, about Members of the other place a decade or so ago—they are exactly like them, in fact, apart from the fact that, in this case, no cash changed hands and no amendments were tabled. But the value of the report that we have in front of us is precisely that it is not a piece of journalism, however noble or ignoble that may be, but a serious and sustained examination of, and inquiry into, a set of journalistic allegations.

Having considered the issues scrupulously and thoroughly, including the examination in person of all the Members who agreed to appear before the inquiry, the sub-committee came to its conclusions. The Committee for Privileges considered the findings of the sub-committee and considered, too, any appeals lodged by Members. As the complainant, I absented myself from any consideration of the appeals; the committee then accordingly made its recommendations, including in one case accepting one of the appeals. I fully concur with the conclusions of the committee of which, as Leader, I am a member. Its conclusions seem to me appropriate, fair and just; accordingly, they seem to me to be conclusions that this House will wish to endorse.

4.30 pm

Thirdly, I turn to the penalties that the committee is considering. The committee is inviting two of the Members concerned to make personal statements to the House; I hope that the House will agree that this is an appropriate course of action and, if that were to be the decision of the House, I trust that the Members concerned would want to do no other than carry out what the House has decided.

In the case of the other two Members of the House, the penalties proposed arising from, but not linked to, the recommendations that the committee is making on the sanctions available to the House, including suspension, are rigorous. They are severe; they are tough. However, in line with the outcome of the investigation, I believe that they are also appropriate, fair and just. I know that some Members of this House would prefer less exacting penalties; I know, equally, that some Members would prefer even more considerable penalties. I believe that the committee has struck the right balance in the penalties that it recommends.

Much has been made of the fact that the proposed penalties for the two Members found by the Committee for Privileges to be in breach of the code of conduct would, if approved by the House today, mark the first suspensions of Members of your Lordships' House since the time of Cromwell. Just as the revelations of the past 10 days in relation to the other place may

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mark historic changes, so do we in this House stand at an historic moment. I believe that this House wants to see justice done for the Members of this House who have been found by the Committee for Privileges to be in breach of the code of conduct. I believe that this House wants to see a fair and just settlement and that such a settlement in the cases before us is there in the conclusions and their associated penalties that the committee proposes.

I believe, too, that the House wants to see justice done for itself and for the Members of this House more widely. During the course of this long process of inquiry, which is due to conclude today, Members of this House felt damaged and diminished by the conduct of Members of this House. I have had Members of this House come to me, as I am sure have other leaders from all parts of the House, and tell me what that has at times meant—being shouted at in the street, and their spouses reluctant to go into their local communities because of what people were saying, and Members’ sense of their own standing being demeaned and their reputations cut to ribbons.

I am proud of this House—proud of what it does, proud of how it does it, proud to sit on these Benches, and proud to be the Leader, and the servant, of this House. But I am saddened when the reputation of this House is sullied. I know that Members on all sides of this House have felt stained and ashamed at the disrepute to which this House has been brought. Shakespeare, of course, has the definitive word. Cassio, Othello’s loyal aide, catches the issue precisely when he tries to explain to the villainous Iago, who has manoeuvred to discredit him, what loss he has endured:

“Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial”.

We have not, I believe, descended into the level of the beast. Indeed, if we take the right decisions—the decisions that the committee is recommending—I believe we can now start on the rebuilding of our reputation which this incident requires. Parliament is a building block of our nation, but the reputation of Parliament and parliamentarians is at stake. The honour, the integrity and the honesty of Parliament and parliamentarians is at stake, and the trust people have in Parliament is at stake. Make no mistake—we have a role to play; we have duties and responsibilities to discharge for the people whom we are here to serve. The moment is now to start on that task, and I urge this House to seize that moment, to make that start and to begin our part in the rebuilding of our Parliament and our politics. That is what our democracy requires.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, clearly, this is an extremely difficult day for this House. The allegations made against four Members of this House, whatever you think of the methods involved in securing the evidence, were grave. It was right that the allegations were published. It was in the public interest that they should be. Having seen the allegations, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, whose leadership in this affair has been decisive and effective, referred them to the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Interests.

That was the appropriate action in a self-regulating House. The sub-committee convened within hours. It contacted the four Peers concerned the same day.

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Anyone who read the report of the sub-committee, who has studied the volume of evidence that it had to review and the transcripts of its many meetings, cannot but express respect and gratitude to the members of that sub-committee chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, or for the thoroughness and fairness with which they conducted their investigation. I also express my thanks to the Clerks of the House for the exemplary service given to the sub-committee and to the Committee for Privileges.

As a member of the Privileges Committee, I do not presume to speak for all my colleagues, but I can assure the House that every member of that committee treated both the report of the sub-committee and the appeals that were presented with the utmost objectiveness and care. Let it not be said by anyone, inside or outside the House, that those who were the subject of these allegations and findings were not fairly heard and objectively judged. I sincerely trust that we will have no statements inside or outside this Chamber suggesting otherwise.

As has been said, as well as considering the findings of the sub-committee, the Committee for Privileges had to consider sanctions and what penalties are available to the House in dealing with such matters. The committee considered the most useful advice given to it by the noble and learned Baroness the Attorney-General, for which we were exceedingly grateful. We also had the benefit of a learned paper from my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern. Having considered the opinions carefully, the Committee for Privileges decided unanimously that your Lordships’ House has every right to require all noble Lords to conduct themselves in accordance with the orders, rules and standards of the House, and an inherent power to enforce conformity with them.

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