Lords a -leaping to the trough sets bad example to the locals

Does the appearance of corruption in the House of Lords matter? Yes it does, on all sorts of grounds. It sets a terrible, high-rolling example to the fledgling legislators elsewhere, who are not above caring about the odd bob or two in the pubic service (quite legally, of course). Some might come to believe, as Lord Taylor appears to, that the system is there partly to make money and like him, they have ” broken no rules” – yet.

The total allocations to local parties over the eight years involve some £5.2m from the Assembly, £2.5m from the Electoral Commission and £2m from the Commons, producing a grand total of £9.7m.

The old dodge of compensating for paying poor-ish Westminster salaries for several decades by jacking up allowances and tolerating the epidemic of paid lobbying is now revealed as a huge elephant trap into which Parliament’s reputation has fallen, just at a very time when the public desperately needs to have confidence in the political system. Cynicism is inevitable if generally undeserved; most peers, like MPs do a good, honourable job of scrutiny, better in the part-reformed Lords than in the Commons these days. But the days of a gentleman’s (ladies not mentioned) word as his bond are well and truly over.
On legal advice, the MSM seem to have thrown sub judice out the window in this case, even though prosecutions can’t quite be rule out . So note the contrast between Lord Taylor’s mawkish apology in the Lords yesterday, and the content of the Sunday Times’ secret tape. I won’t weary you with much background. The ex-Labour adviser, green campaigner and now searing Labour critic George Monbiot offers a mordant context. From cash for questions to cash for laws – Labour’s record, is his harsh verdict.

“It is fitting and unsurprising that the scene of the new scandal is the unelected second chamber, whose proper reform Blair and Brown have spent 12 years avoiding..”

And still they fail to face up to the need for parliamentary reform as a whole, as they proved by all that flip-flopping over FOI disclosures of MPs’ expenses only last week.

And the direct importance for NI? For the non-abstentionist SDLP, the idea of an unelected SDLP Lord was always one step too far (would Gerry Fitt have taken his seat if he’d remained in the party, I wonder?). But a directly elected Upper House is bound to involve all NI parties in at least the election and open a whole new front of activity. Yet despite the new pledges of reforming the Lords rules, I believe the wholesale reform of the Lords to an elected chamber will remain on hold for years.

In the meantime – Baron Adams of Ballymurphy (106) has a certain ring to it, yes?

  • kensei

    Selling the ability to change the Law. Am I missing something, or is this just about the most blatant piece of corruption that you can possibly have? Why aren’t the police involved and the people potentially locked up for a very long time if found guilty?

    This seems completely corrosive to democracy.

  • Alan

    On the one hand, on the other hand . . .

    Cash for influence is just wrong – dear knows what “You’ve got to whet my appetite to get me on board” means, but it doesn’t sound good.

    I think I’m right in saying that Peers receive no pay, but do receive appearance money of 86.50 per sitting day ( detail on allowances are available here http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200708/ldpeers/ldpeers.pdf ).

    If we are to have a second chamber that does it’s job, then we need some form of recompense for peers (or whatever they will be called in the future). That either has to be a regulated form of consultancy work / directorships, or you pay people for the work they do. Leaving things as they are will simply result in a House for the Great and the Rich.

    And it’s not just a talking shop, they have a crucial revising role in legislation, an area in which they far outperform the Commons. Indeed it is the Commons own concept of its predominance that has prevented payment of Peers salaries in the past.

  • wild turkey

    ‘Cynicism is inevitable if generally undeserved; most peers, like MPs do a good, honourable job of scrutiny’

    Sorry to disagree Brian, but the cynicism is very well deserved. while not disputing your assertion that most peers and MPs do a good and honourable job, they fall down on a number of scores.

    1. Wasn’t it only last week that Brown backed down on making info on MPs expenses exempt from FoI requests and wider dissemination?

    2. These honourable MPs and Peers are self-evidently not doing an honourable job in implementing and executing robust, comprehensive and transparent mechanisms, rules,legislation, whatever that ensures MPs and Peeers do not make personal gain out of their positions of public trust and service. The absence of effective measures to monitor and punish unacceptable behaviour and scammin implicitly colludes with and condones that behaviour.

    In short, rules and laws should exist ensuring that MPs or Lords who betrary the public trust are subject to at minimum dismissal, and possibly serious fines and/or imprisonment.

    Consider this. Those who do not pay £140 for a TV licence, regardless of their income or personal circumstances, are liable to pay a fine up to £1000. How about those MPs and Peers who scam money, through influence peddling, fiddling expenses etc etc are subject to a fines of £1000 for every £140 scammed?

    In these circumstances public cynicism is a fairly mild response. History is replete with examples where public anger and frustration with the corruption, incompetence and indifference of the political class led to upheavals far more violent and profound.

    Bring back the stockades for these fuckers. My entrepreneurial 8 year old wants to open a lemonade stand this summer. In to supporting and encouraging his ambitions, I think I’ll suggest he set up at Westminster (or Stormont?) and branch out into tomatoes, eggs and ……

  • blinding

    One of these days Britain wil become an open functioning democracy but not yet.

    Party reps will come on and tell you that there is very little corruption compared to other countries, they might even mention Italy or some African countries.

    It sure is difficult to prove corruption when there is no law that can be invoked against these people. Its no wonder Blair was selling peerages to the highest bidder.

    I fear these money grabbing politicos are so far removed from reality that a dose of French revolution methods is the only thing that will get the 100,000 cheque to drop.
    Certainly all of the Lords should be stripped of their Ermine to diplay to all that though old and wrinkly they till have an appetite for the lobbysts lavishly festooned trough.

  • The United Kingdom’s royal state needs a comprehensive overhaul where its conventional constitution is replaced by a written one, with a modern bill of rights; drastic reform or removal of the Lords; remaking the Commons so it is more than just a rubber stamp of what the Government proposes; giving the Courts a role in determining the constitutionality of what the Crown legislates; vastly reducing the power of the prerogative; etc.

    Until it is drastically reformed, its citizens will continue to have all kinds of ripoffs, abuse of powers, surprises, etc.