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Monday
Jun032013

House of Lords hit with pay-to-play scandal

Screen grab of Lord Cunningham from the covert Sunday Times videoThree members of the U.K. House of Lords have been accused in two undercover investigations by journalist of agreeing to carry out Parliamentary work for payment.

Sunday Times reporters covertly filmed Ulster Unionist Lord Laird and Labor's Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate and Lord Cunningham. The reporters posed as officials from a fake solar energy company. The peers allegedly agreed to host events at Parliament in exchange for money, and provide personal lobbying.

The House of Lords code of conduct says peers cannot act as paid advocates and "must not seek to profit from membership of the House by accepting or agreeing to accept payment for providing parliamentary advice or services."

Separately, the BBC and the Daily Telegraph secretly filmed Lord Laird discussing a retainer to ask parliamentary questions about Fiji.

'The two Labor peers have been suspended from the party and Lord Laird has resigned the party whip pending an investigation,' the BBC said.

Lord Laird later said he was scammed by journalists. All three peers denied breaking any rules.

Lord Cunningham was a minister under Tony Blair. He allegedly asked the Sunday Times reporters for an annual fee of £144,000 to provide lobbying. He later said he was trying to expose the undercover journalists.

The Sunday Times said all three peers had told its reporters they would declare any payment in the House of Lords register. But they also 'discussed ways to get around declaration of interest rules by asking colleagues to table questions and host events,' the Sunday Times said.