TWO peers have been suspended from the House of Lords after they were filmed by undercover reporters offering to set up influential all-party parliamentary groups for payment.
The House agreed, without a vote, a recommendation from the Privileges and Conduct Committee to suspend Labour peer Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate for six months and Ulster Unionist Lord Laird for four months.
The decision followed an investigation by the Sunday Times, which recorded the peers discussing the creation of an all-party group on solar energy with reporters posing as consultants acting for a South Korean solar energy firm.
In a separate investigation by the BBC Panorama programme and the Sunday Telegraph, Lord Laird was covertly filmed discussing prospects for setting up an all-party group on Fiji.
Both men were also found to have demonstrated a “clear willingness” to negotiate agreements which involved providing parliamentary services in return for payment and to have breached their duty “to act always on their personal honour”.
The Upper House agreed without a debate the suspensions for the two peers, who have both also been kicked out by their parties.
Neither Lord Mackenzie nor Lord Laird was present in the chamber as peers nodded through the sanctions.
Chairman of committees Lord Sewel, who speaks for the House authorities, said: “The two lords were subject to what might be described as a sting operation by the Sunday Times newspaper.
“Lord Laird was, in addition, the subject of an undercover operation by the BBC television programme Panorama.
“In the course of conversations with undercover journalists posing as intermediaries for legitimate businesses, or as communications consultants, the two lords said things that the House’s Commissioner for Standards found to indicate a clear willingness to breach the House’s code of conduct, contrary to the requirement that they should always act on their personal honour.
“The commissioner found that Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate had, in addition, breached the code by improper use of the House’s facilities by hosting functions and by entering into an agreement to accept payment in return for providing a parliamentary service.”