Former Durham police boss suspended over lobbying scandal

File photo dated 02/06/09 of Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate who has been suspended from the Labour Party over claims he offered to carry out parliamentary work in return for cash. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday June 2, 2013. See PA story POLITICS Lobbying. Photo credit should read: Ian Nicholson/PA Wire
File photo dated 02/06/09 of Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate who has been suspended from the Labour Party over claims he offered to carry out parliamentary work in return for cash. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday June 2, 2013. See PA story POLITICS Lobbying. Photo credit should read: Ian Nicholson/PA Wire
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A FORMER top officer with Durham police who joined the House of Lords has been suspended from the Labour party over claims he offered to carry out parliamentary work for cash.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate was recorded by undercover Sunday Times reporters.

He and two other peers are alleged to have told reporters posing as lobbyists representing a fake solar energy firm they could help push its agenda – in apparent breach of a ban on paid advocacy.

Lord Mackenzie said he believed the undercover reporters were interviewing him for a consultants’ job for the energy firm.

The Sunday Times said the peer was asked whether he could get around Parliament’s rules which stop peers from booking events related to their financial interests.

All three men deny breaching the rules and have referred themselves to the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards.

Before being suspended, Lord Mackenzie had insisted he had done nothing wrong and was “very clear on the rules”.

He said: “It’s a difficult path to wind along to make sure you don’t breach the rules, but I’m quite clear it’s perfectly legitimate to ask another peer to host that and that gets me off the hook as far as hosting it.

“I didn’t ask anyone to ask a question.

“I’m not being paid to ask questions and that’s the point.

“There’s no difficulty in any member of the House of Lords in raising a subject in which he has a financial interest providing he’s on the register as being a consultant ... and of course it’s properly declared, what is wrong is a member of the House of Lords actually joining a lobbying company that tries to lobby ministers to change and influence legislation, and to ask questions on behalf of a company.

“Now I certainly wouldn’t do that and I’m clear in my mind of the difference.”

Brian Mackenzie was a chief superintendent in the Durham Constabulary and is a former president of the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales.

He became a peer and joined the House of Lords in 1998.

Ex-cabinet minister Lord Cunningham was also caught on tape by the reporters.

In a statement, the party said the pair “have been suspended from the Labour Party pending further investigation.

“The Labour Party expects the highest standards of its representatives and believes that they have a duty to be transparent and accountable at all times.”

Lord Laird earlier resigned the Ulster Unionist party whip after being targeted by the same investigation.

It comes just two days after MP Patrick Mercer quit the Tory whip, referred himself to the Commons sleaze watchdog and announced he would quit the Commons in 2015 over similar allegations.

It is claimed he tabled parliamentary questions and a motion, offered a security pass and set up a parliamentary group for a lobbying firm paying him £2,000 a month to push for the end of Fiji’s suspension from the Commonwealth.

They were in fact undercover reporters from the BBC’s Panorama programme and the Daily Telegraph.

“Now I certainly wouldn’t do that and I’m clear in my mind of the difference.”