Scrutinising government

Chamber of secrets: House of Lords exposed

Queens SPeech 2012 - Flickr:UK Parliament

Bowing to protocol. The Bureau investigates apparent breaches of House of Lords rules.

Senior members of the House of Lords, including a former Tory President of the European Parliament, are failing to disclose significant outside interests to public scrutiny, an investigation by the Bureau and the Independent reveals.

In our investigation into apparent breaches of House of Lords rules by peers it has emerged that the Conservative peer Lord Plumb was involved with a Brussels based lobbying company while sitting on a Lords’ select committee that scrutinises draft EU law.

Lord Plumb, who spent 12 years as an MEP, is described as a ‘team member’ of Alber & Geiger which describes itself as a ‘political lobbying powerhouse’. His relationship with the firm is not declared on the House of Lords register of interests.

Related article: Undeclared interests – Peers fail to register business role 

Other peers, including the hereditary peer Lord St John of Bletso also appear to have outside interests which are not declared in the register.

The Labour party wrote to the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards to ask him to investigate the Conservative Party Treasurer Lord Fink after revelations by the Bureau published in the Independent yesterday.

The Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jon Trickett said he wanted to know why Lord Fink sponsored a money-making dinner in the House of Lords as part of its $9,300 ‘Wimbledon Championships’ package available to AmEx Platinum and Centurion card holders.

Related article: Conservative Treasurer accused of breaking House of Lords rules 

Lord Fink admitted agreeing to sponsor the dinner but pulled out after being contacted by the investigation.

He said he had not profited in any way from the sponsorship.

Simon Hughes, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the investigations by the Bureau raised important questions about whether House of Lords rules were being properly complied with and added to the argument for fundamental reform of the second chamber.

‘These revelations shine a spotlight on the often murky world of business interests in the House of Lords,’ he said.

‘This is an institution that is long past its sell by date. Lawmakers cannot be lobbyists too.

‘How much more scandal do we need to see before we reform our outdated and unelected House of Lords?’

Related article: David Cameron’s fundraiser faces investigation

Oliver Wright is Whitehall Editor at the Independent.