2 Jun 2013

Lobbying scandal: peer admits he ‘got around the rules’

Lord Mackenzie, one of the peers suspended over the lobbying scandal, admits to Channel 4 News that he ‘got around the rules’, but denies breaking them.

Lord Mackenzie told Channel 4 News that he had not broken rules, by asking fellow Lords to host dinners at Westminster because rules permited him from doing so.

The dinners were for an environmental company he worked for as a consultant. The former senior police officer also said the rules governing the behaviour of Lords were to complicated.

He is one of three peers caught up in the scandal, following a Sunday Times investigation. Former cabinet member Lord Cunningham has also been suspended by the Labour party, whilst Lord Laird has resigned the Ulster Unionist whip.

I wish to make it clear that I did not agree to act as a paid advocate in any proceedings of the House nor did I accept payment or other incentive or reward in return for providing parliamentary advice or services. Lord Laird

In a statement, party leader Mike Nesbitt said: “Having reviewed the video footage on the Daily Telegraph website, and other media reporting of Lord Laird’s engagement with alleged lobbyists, I telephoned his home this morning and as a result he has relinquished the party whip, pending the outcome of the review of his behaviour that he has already requested of the relevant authorities at Westminster.

Undercover sting

Lord Laird was one of three peers caught up in an undercover sting by Sunday Times reporters posing as representatives of an energy firm.

The newspaper said he was recorded setting out ways he could lobby for new laws on behalf of a South Korean solar power firm. But he insisted he had suspected from the start that they were not genuine.

(L-R) Lord Mackenzie, Lord Laird and Lord Cunningham - who have been caught up in allegations of cash for lobbying (pictures: Tyne and Tees and Getty)

“In recent days I have been the subject of a scam operated by journalists masquerading as communications consultants,” he said in a statement.

“This has led to allegations that I have broken the rules of the House of Lords.

“I wish to make it clear that I did not agree to act as a paid advocate in any proceedings of the House nor did I accept payment or other incentive or reward in return for providing parliamentary advice or services.”

Scam suspected

He said that because he suspected a scam, he took a journalist to the meeting as a witness.

“Shortly after the meeting, because it was so obviously a scam, we reported it to the appropriate authorities in the Lords.

“I have not broken any rules. However, I have referred the situation to the appropriate authorities and I will be making no further statement until I have received their ruling.”

The latest claims emerged a day after MP Patrick Mercer quit the Tory whip after being filmed in a separate undercover operation.

He is alleged to have tabled Commons questions and offered a Westminster security pass after signing a deal with a lobbying firm that paid him £4,000 seeking the readmission of Fiji to the Commonwealth.


The lobbyists were in fact undercover reporters conducting an investigation for BBC’s Panorama and the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

The Sunday Times said the peers – two Labour – were caught offering to ask parliamentary questions and lobby ministers in return for cash.

All three are believed to have referred themselves to the watchdog.

A Labour spokeswoman said: “The Party expects all peers to comply with the Lords Code of Conduct, which is there to bring clarity to their dealings with outside commercial interests and consultancies.

“We demand high standards of behaviour from our parliamentarians.

“Where there is genuine evidence of wrongdoing, including non-compliance with the code of conduct, the Labour Party will consider appropriate disciplinary action as and when necessary.”

Mr Mercer said he was taking legal advice but resigned the whip “to save my party embarrassment” and would step down from the Commons at the next general election.


He also referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

The MPs’ code of conduct prohibits “paid advocacy” and requires the declaration of financial interests.

Tory Monmouth MP David Davies has revealed that he was among those targeted by the Panorama sting, but insisted he refused the offer of lobbying work.

Mr Mercer tabled questions to ministers in May about Fiji and also tabled a motion saying there was “no justification for Fiji’s continued suspension from the Commonwealth”.

The names were revealed today of some of the MPs who agreed to join an all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on Fiji at Mr Mercer’s invitation – none of whom faces any allegations of wrongdoing.

Among those named by the Sunday Telegraph were Tories Julian Brazier and Mark Field and Labour MPs Keith Vaz, Valerie Vaz and Fabian Hamilton. All defended their decision to offer support to the group.

Mr Mercer reportedly boasted to the undercover reporters that among 18 MPs he signed up were “several … that would like to go to Fiji”.

A spokesman for Mr Vaz said he was a member of several such groups but had not been offered a visit to Fiji.

The controversy has reignited calls for the government to press ahead with promised legislation both for a statutory register of lobbyists and the power for constituents to “recall” MPs who breach the rules.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has made clear his determination to secure the register – blaming the Tories for the lack of action.

Cross-party talks

Calling for cross-party talks on a register, shadow cabinet office minister Jon Trickett MP said: “We have seen no action from this Tory-led government, despite David Cameron himself warning that lobbying was the next great scandal waiting to happen.”

David Prince, interim chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said it warned in January that lobbying remained a “significant and continuing risk to ethical standards” but that a register would not solve all the problems.