Sunday, 25 January 2009

Protecting "the Party"

The Times reports that: "Revealed: Labour lords change laws for cash" and the article starts:
"LABOUR peers are prepared to accept fees of up to £120,000 a year to amend laws in the House of Lords on behalf of business clients, a Sunday Times investigation has found.

Four peers — including two former ministers — offered to help undercover reporters posing as lobbyists obtain an amendment in return for cash.

Two of the peers were secretly recorded telling the reporters they had previously secured changes to bills going through parliament to help their clients.

Lord Truscott, the former energy minister, said he had helped to ensure the Energy Bill was favourable to a client selling “smart” electricity meters. Lord Taylor of Blackburn claimed he had changed the law to help his client Experian, the credit check company.

Taylor told the reporters: “I will work within the rules, but the rules are meant to be bent sometimes.”

The other peers who agreed to assist our reporters for a fee were Lord Moonie, a former defence minister, and Lord Snape, a former Labour whip.

The disclosure that peers are “for hire” to help change legislation confirms persistent rumours in Westminster that lobbyists are targeting the Lords rather than the Commons, where MPs are under greater scrutiny.

Brendan Keith, the registrar of Lords’ interests, said on Friday that taking a fee to help amend bills was a breach of the “no paid advocacy” rules which prevent peers from promoting the cause of a paid client in parliament. “The rules say that a member of the House must never accept any financial inducement as an incentive or reward for exerting parliamentary influence,” he said. "

Disgusting news of course but not that surprising.

The BBC report the news that it is Labour peers involved as sotto voce as they can, bearing in mind that that is the story. The BBC article keeps the party allegiances of the four peers back as long as they can:
"'Concern' over peers cash claims - The leader of the House of Lords says she is "deeply concerned" over allegations four peers were prepared to accept money to put down amendments.

The Sunday Times claims they offered to help make amendments to legislation in return for up to £120,000.

Lady Royall told the BBC she had spoken to the four Labour peers concerned and would be "pursuing the matter with utmost vigour". "

The story becomes the Labour reaction and (further on), the partial denial of the story and the fact that all four are Labour peers is relegated to the third sentence.

Can you imagine the BBC's coverage if it had been four Conservative peers? Would anyone like to argue that the word "Tory" or "Conservative" would not have been in the article headline?

No comments: