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This House has the right to fine and even to imprison its Members. This was reaffirmed as recently as 1999. The Privileges Committee considered carefully if it also has a right to suspend Members from the service of the House. It concluded unequivocally that it has. I urge the House to accept that advice.

The argument before us is that to suspend would interfere with the right of a Peer to sit and vote in Parliament. The Companion has for years advised us that Peers should be especially cautious before speaking on matters where they have direct interests shared by few others. Is that unlawful? Our Standing Orders contain provision for a resolution that a noble Lord “be no longer heard”. Is that unlawful? Section 4(d) of the code of conduct forbids Peers who have a pecuniary interest from voting on a Bill or Motion, or from promoting anything. Is that unlawful?

Noble Lords have a right to be here by virtue of a Writ of Summons, but surely your Lordships have the power—indeed, the duty—to regulate the behaviour of Members. A House that fines or imprisons its Members must surely be able to exercise a power to suspend. It may be said that this power has not been used since the 17th century, but the fact that it was used then means that it pre-dates the resolution of your Lordships’ House in 1705 which resolved that no new privilege could be created by resolution. No new power is being created today. There is therefore no

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retrospection and no manufactured new sentence. In these extraordinary times, we have seen in another place action being taken that has not been taken since 1695. I do not hear anyone saying that that was out of order for that reason.

No one raises an eyebrow when an errant Member of another place is suspended; I see no reason why we should not use our power to do so here. The noble Lord the Chairman of Committees and the noble Baroness the Leader of the House have introduced the reports before your Lordships. I will not repeat what they have said; their recommendations and the reports speak for themselves. I believe that all four of the Peers concerned fell short of the highest standards the House and the public are entitled to expect. In the case of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Blackburn, the Committee for Privileges found a clear willingness to breach the code of conduct by engaging in paid advocacy. In the case of the noble Lord, Lord Truscott, the committee found that the evidence was so clear and plentiful that it concluded the noble Lord was advertising his power and willingness to influence Parliament in return for a substantial financial inducement. Both noble Lords were willing to breach the code’s prohibition on paid advocacy and both had failed to act—as the House expects of all of us—on their honour.

These findings make a sad conclusion by the committee. It is an unhappy conclusion, but it is also, in my judgment, a fair and just one. The public expect that this House will react with firmness and unity to show its abhorrence of wrong-doing and any propensity to it. I therefore commend the reports to the House, and I will support the Motions before us this afternoon.

4.41 pm

Lord McNally: My Lords, I echo the tribute that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has paid to the Lord President. I do not think that any Leader of the House could have been more tested by fire than she has been in trying to deal with this matter. The House is in her debt for the way in which she has led us through it.

Forty-three years ago I sat in Central Lobby, waiting to be interviewed by Arthur Skeffington MP for my first job as assistant general-secretary of the Fabian Society. I still remember the sense of awe I felt for this building and what it stands for. In the four decades since, I have had many roles but I still enter this building with that same sense of awe, combined these days with a sense of privilege at being able to serve here. Therefore, I approach this debate with a sense of duty and responsibility, but also sadness. Sitting in judgment on friends and colleagues is never pleasant. Indeed, there may be some sitting here today who, having read the transcripts of evidence, are thinking, “There, but for the grace of God, go I”. For let us be clear, what we are dealing with here is a case of entrapment, not of exposure. It is important for the public to understand that the Sunday Times, with all the resources of its insight team, could not find a single example of a Peer who was actually paid for getting an amendment passed. The reason for that is very clear. In this House—this is one of its strengths since 1999—no single party, let alone a lone Peer, could amend a Bill in this way. If you ask, “What about the claims made by Lord Truscott and Lord

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Taylor?”, I would reply that it is there that they failed to act on personal honour by allowing a salesman’s hype to get in the way of the truth.

The fact that they were willing to sell their services in the first place is enough to condemn them in the eyes of some. However, I put that matter into context. When I came into this House in 1996, I was employed by a company which involved itself in lobbying. I appeared before the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, and his committee and the rules as drawn up reflect the evidence I gave at that time. It was recognised that there was a difference between advice and advocacy. However, it also recognised that it was proper for noble Lords to offer themselves as public affairs advisers and many have, and still do. We could, of course, draw up far more draconian rules and ban advice as well as advocacy, as does the American Senate, but such rules would have to include the work of law firms and accountancy firms, and others who offer public affairs advice in their capacity as non-executive directors or members of advisory boards.

I have gone into this background in some detail because the noble Lord, Lord Truscott, calls me in aid by name in his appeal. What he says is true. I have long argued that our rules on lobbying are too vague for modern circumstances and include many grey areas in terms of personal behaviour. But it is too easy simply to say that the rules should ban lobbying. Show me a parliament without lobbying, and I will show you a parliament without power.

The key to this matter, as in so much else at present besetting us, is transparency and accountability. The three professional bodies overseeing lobbyists and lobbying companies are in the process of creating a single umbrella organisation for the industry. I hope that Parliament will respond to that by entering into urgent discussions with the new body to create clear and enforceable rules of conduct which will be embodied in the codes of conduct of lobbying firms and Parliament. This could well involve a bar on paying parliamentarians for their advice.

In this, as in other matters, we have to face the fact that we do not receive a salary, and many noble Lords have to earn a living outside the House. Unless we are content to have this House comprised of men and women of independent means living within the M25, we will have to face up to the reality that all noble Lords who earn a living outside the House risk the danger of straying into the grey areas to which I have referred. That is why I welcome the Leader of the House setting up a review of our codes of conduct, and these should be looked at in terms of those who work outside the House.

These points about entrapment and the grey areas in our present rules are, in part, an explanation of why the Privileges Committee restricted the findings to a breach of paragraph 4(b) of the code—a failure to act on personal honour. We were right to do so, and I hope the House and the four individuals concerned will accept the findings when we vote at the end of this debate.

On the matter of the report before us on the powers of the House, it is some measure of the difficulty we faced and had to grapple with that we had to go back

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four centuries to determine our powers. We were immensely indebted to the Attorney-General and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, for their advice. I have no doubt that we came to the right conclusion, and I hope that the House today will endorse the conclusion contained on pages 4 and 5 of the report. To do otherwise would validate the rather unwise words of the noble Lord, Lord Moonie:

If that were to be proved true by us rejecting the report on powers we would quite frankly become a laughing stock.

I am aware that some noble Lords will argue that by asserting the right to suspend, the Privileges Committee has moved the goal posts. The guidance notes sent to the four Peers did say that,

As the report clearly demonstrates, that advice was wrong. The House will have to listen to the arguments in deciding whether or not that wrong advice irretrievably polluted the process. For my part, it seems a bit rum to say, “My defence would have been different if I had thought the consequences were different”. Anyone reading the evidence—I echo the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde—will see that the sub-committee bent over backwards to be fair, as did the Privileges Committee in receiving the sub-committee report and the appeals of the four Members.

So I am urging noble Lords to approve both reports and the actions they recommend. Like other speakers, I put on record my profound gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, and her colleagues, and to the staff of this House. But, as the Lord President indicated, this cannot be the end of the matter. Each and every one of us has to act on personal honour to uphold the honour of this House. This means action this day in voting for the report before us. It means urgent action to clarify the rules governing lobbying and lobbyists—if possible by working out a sanctions-backed code with the new industry body now being established, and a register of lobbyists working in Parliament and their clients.

It means dealing with equal urgency with the allowances regime, which is also vaguely drawn and lightly policed. The House Committee took some steps in that direction yesterday. We should also bring forward the review of the role of the Lord Speaker to see whether that role in protecting the reputation of the House can be strengthened.

Finally—and I make no apology for returning to it—this House has to accept that the next stage of reform cannot be postponed until some time in the next decade. If there is a change of Government, it is likely that the notional membership of this House will rise above 800. I do not believe that the public mood is for accepting such a situation. There is still time in this Parliament to bring forward the reforms, as we discussed earlier.

As I have said, I have now been around this building for 40 years. I love it and what it stands for. I still believe that those who serve here at both ends of the building are, in the main, motivated by a commitment to worthy ideas and ideals and that our public life is still relatively free of corruption. However, protecting that honour requires eternal vigilance and, where

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necessary, firm action. We are at such a defining moment. Although Parliament has suffered damage, its foundations go deep and its walls are strong. Yesterday, the Prime Minister said that Parliament could no longer be run like a gentleman’s club. He is right, and our decisions today will be the clearest indication that the House of Lords has received that message loud and clear.

Baroness D'Souza: My Lords, we live in a world of euphemisms—extraordinary rendition, collateral damage and quantitative easing—but I suggest that the word “honour” still has the same currency that it has had for hundreds of years. Moreover, it is fairly straightforward to translate the concept of honour into actions. Your Lordships have the additional guidance of both the Nolan principles, to which all those in public service sign up, and the code of conduct, which applies specifically to your Lordships’ House.

Thomas Jefferson rightly said:

“When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself as public property”.

There is an obligation on each and every Member to uphold the dignity of this House and to be seen to be doing so. Why is that so important? It is generally acknowledged that in recent years this House has performed an increasingly decisive democratic role in scrutinising legislation and holding the Government of the day to account. It is also rather widely felt that this role is both essential and well acquitted by your Lordships. The tragedy of the events described and painstakingly analysed in the two reports that we are debating today is that the democratic role may itself be judged to be inadequate and that the work of the great majority of this House’s Members will likewise be denigrated. Not only is this painful for all of us but it has constitutional significance. There is a huge task ahead of building public confidence. Public fury and disenchantment cannot be underestimated.

In Parliament, as a bicameral legislative body, there is a specific role for this House. We are now embarked on a programme to educate the wider public in informal and formal ways about not only what is achieved in this House but what measures are now being taken to ensure future transparency. We would do well to remember that a peerage is for life. We are not subject to a five-yearly public audit, and that is all the more reason to have strong codes—even stricter perhaps than those that operate in the other place. The two reports are part of that process and will be judged by the fairness with which those accused of breaching the code of honour have been treated, as well as the efforts that have been made to impose appropriate sanctions.

The House is an ancient institution, as are its powers, and these, it seems, have not fallen into desuetude. The media may discount the care with which these events have been dealt with and the punishment proposed. However, I think that we know and accept that the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Interests and the Committee for Privileges have considered the cases individually and in depth, and that sanctions, although severe, are indeed appropriate.

Finally, I add my thanks to all those staff who have been engaged in the enormous amount of work involved in producing these reports. I also thank the members

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of the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Interests and my colleagues on the Committee for Privileges for the care, balance and tolerance that they have shown in arriving at their decisions, which I very much hope will be accepted by the whole House today.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, near the start of what will be a long debate, I shall, if I may, say a very few words about the point of law on which the noble and learned Baroness the Attorney-General and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, have expressed different views.

They both agree that there is no power to exclude a Member permanently. They both agree that the House has power to regulate its own procedure. The only question that divides them is whether that power includes a power to suspend. The Attorney-General argues in paragraph 14 of her memorandum that the power to suspend is outside what she calls the mere regulation of our own procedures. In my view, the power to regulate our procedure goes wider than she implies.

The House, like any other body, has power to make rules for its own governance. Like any other body, it must have power to enforce those rules. In the case of the most serious breaches, suspension for a limited period would seem to be the common sense answer, unless that is excluded for some reason. The Attorney-General argues that it is indeed excluded because it is inconsistent with a Member’s right under his Letters Patent to sit and vote in Parliament. But that right is not absolute. It is a right that depends for its exercise on the Member receiving a Writ of Summons. The writ itself imposes certain duties on Members, including by implication a duty to obey the rules of the House.

It follows, in my view, that the power of the House to impose sanctions for breach of its rules, including a power to suspend, exists and has always existed by necessary implication in the Writ of Summons. I would take that view even though that power may never have been spelt out until now, and even if it had never been exercised. The Attorney-General also argues that the power to suspend is excluded by a binding resolution of both Houses of Parliament in 1705. I am not sure in what sense that resolution can be said to be binding, having regard to the constitutional principle that no Parliament can bind its successors. Putting that on one side, I cannot agree that by asserting now a power to suspend Members for breach of the rules of the House, the House is thereby creating for itself a privilege in any ordinary or indeed in any possible sense of that word. If it is creating a privilege, it is, for all the reasons I have mentioned, not a new privilege.

Finally, the Attorney-General draws attention to a view expressed by the then Clerk of the Parliaments in 1998 in evidence before the Joint Committee on Privileges. Any view coming from that source is entitled to the greatest respect. I have looked at that report and its predecessor, but we should not regard ourselves as being bound by that view, especially as the committee itself reached no conclusion one way or the other. It follows that I agree with the views more fully, and I suspect much more accurately, expressed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, and summarised so well in paragraph 8 of the report. There is only one

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very small respect in which I would venture to disagree with the noble and learned Lord, when he says in paragraph 36 that he would expect the period of suspension for breach of the rules to be relatively short. He was not of course talking about this particular case, and nor am I. But I can imagine cases of a serious breach occurring near the beginning of a Parliament in which the suspension of the Member would be longer, perhaps very much longer, than is possible in these cases.

5 pm

Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, perhaps I may detain the House briefly with a matter that has already been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, and others. It relates to the advice given to the four Peers before and indeed during the committee’s sitting. These are matters of which many noble Lords may be unaware and the references made in those speeches were, if I may say so, dealt with very lightly, and do not give the full picture. It may assist the House to have just a little more background.

In January, before the Committee for Privileges sat, as I understand it, each of the four Peers, but certainly the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, was sent a letter from the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, accompanied by the code of conduct and by a document that is now in the Printed Paper Office—I know that it was not earlier when other noble Lords were asking for it—headed, Guidance for Members of the House of Lords against whom a Complaint is made. Paragraph 6 of that guidance note states in the clearest possible terms:

“The House has no power to suspend, expel or fine its Members. If a complaint is upheld, therefore, the only sanction available to the Sub-Committee and the Committee for Privileges is to bring the conduct of the Member concerned to the attention of the House”.

It then continues to describe other matters that relate to failure to declare interests. That was the guidance that each of those four Peers received before they were summoned before the committee. That guidance has been dismissed as wrong, but it was of course wholly in accordance with the advice that the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, gave subsequently, which was that there was no such power to suspend. No doubt whoever drafted the guidance did so on the basis of that position.

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, handed those documents to his legal advisers and took their legal advice, which was based, in part, on that guidance. As a result, he did not himself give evidence before the committee, although he was represented. As we have heard, there was the later, detailed advice from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, and now a suspension is recommended to this House in two cases as a result of that advice being accepted by the committee.

That advice may be right, it may be wrong. It is for your Lordships to make up your minds. I am not a constitutional lawyer and I do not propose to try to argue one way or the other. I listened carefully to what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, just said. What was undoubtedly the position was that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, did not know of that advice until after the report was published. Indeed, it is not clear

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to me from the few members of the committee to whom I have spoken whether they were made aware of the guidance that had been sent to the four Peers beforehand.

As a matter of natural justice and fairness, surely it cannot be right to start what was in effect a disciplinary procedure on one basis, conduct the proceedings on that basis and subsequently change tack, so as, in effect—I deliberately use these words—to impose a retroactive punishment. Certainly one of the noble Lords took advice based on the guidance given by this House. Whether he would have given evidence or not otherwise, I clearly do not know, but it seems that there has been a breach of natural justice in the procedure adopted that could lead to an extremely embarrassing legal challenge subsequently, if we proceed to suspend.

It may be that we disregard natural justice in relation to matters about which we feel particularly strongly; I hope that we do not. It may be that although the European Convention on Human Rights makes it clear that we are entitled to a fair trial, sometimes the greater political need causes us to be blind to that. I urge the House to be very slow indeed in rejecting paragraphs 14 and 15 of appendix 1 to the report in which the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, urges caution. There are many ways in which we can expel people from this House in ways that do not involve the word expulsion. We can, for example, invite them to take leave of absence. We can also, if they insist on coming, move that they are no longer heard. We have many ways of making this House’s displeasure known.

We have come here, all of us, with heavy hearts, to try to protect the integrity of a place about which we care greatly. That is all the more reason, in an atmosphere packed with emotion, that we should get it right. If we suspend, having told these four Peers in advance that that was not going to happen, it seems to me that we are running a grave risk of breaching natural justice, which we want to see preserved.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, the advice of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, is of great constitutional significance, and, having heard the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, it would be presumptuous of me to say anything more than that I respectfully agree. I therefore need say nothing more about the first report of the Committee for Privileges, except that I hope the House will agree with it and endorse the advice of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay.

The second report deals with the conduct of the four Members of the House. I shall deal in a few moments with the plea in mitigation which the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, has just made and with which I profoundly disagree. That report deals with the fairness of the procedures of the sub-committee’s report, with the interpretation of the code and with the conduct of the Members found to have breached the code.

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