Letter to Baroness Prashar from Norman
Baker MP, Monday 26 January 2009
I am writing to ask you, in your capacity of
Chairman of the Lords Sub-Committee on Members' Interests, to
begin an investigation into the very serious allegations made
in yesterday's Sunday Times.
The paper alleges, over a number of pages and
at considerable depth, that four peers offered to advance the
cause on outside business (fictitious, as it happens), in exchange
for money. The services offered, while stopping short of the tabling
of amendments, did allegedly include intervention behind the scenes
with Ministers and Bill officials, which, to my mind, constitutes
paid advocacy, which of course is rightly prohibited.
I note that the statements made by the peers
in question, when confronted with the allegations, included denials
that amendments had been tabled, but not, as far as I can see,
the other elements of what widely will be seen as paid advocacy.
I also note that the Sunday Times maintains
it has tape recordings of at least two of the meetings, and would
ask you in the interests of fairness, if you do agree to conduct
an investigation, to ask the paper for copies of these tapes.
More generally, the paper suggests that over
half the members of the Lords now have consultancies, and I further
understand that the vast majority of these have been self-classified
as non-parliamentary consultancies, which of course constitutes
a lower level of accountability. It is not clear to me why outside
interests would wish to use so many peers for non-parliamentary
consultancies, and I believe any inquiry you hold ought to consider
this wider aspect as well, both in terms of whether the description
applied to the activities carried out is accurate, and indeed
whether it is appropriate at all for peers to be able to carry
out consultancy work.
I look forward to your reply. I am copying this
letter to Brendan Keith, in his capacity as the registrar of Lords'
Norman Baker MP