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UK parliament hit by lobbying scandal

Cash-for-questions: 3 politicians caught in a sting operation offering to use their influence

Written by Press Trust Of India | London |
June 3, 2013 1:01:26 am

Britain’s cash-for-questions row on Sunday got murkier as it claimed the scalp of three peers who have been accused of agreeing to carry out parliamentary work for money offered by undercover reporters.

Labour party suspended Lord Jack Cunningham,the former Cabinet minister,and Lord Brian Mackenzie of Framwellgate,the former police chief. Lord John Laird resigned the Ulster Unionist whip and has also referred himself to the House of Lords sleaze watchdog.

Undercover ‘Sunday Times’ reporters,posing as a South Korean solar energy company,secretly filmed Lord Cunningham,Lord Mackenzie and Lord Laird as they revealed their readiness to wield their influence in the halls of power to paying clients,escalating what is being referred to as ‘cash-for-questions’ row.

However,Ulster Unionist Lord Laird,Labour’s Lord Mackenzie and Lord Cunningham all deny wrongdoing.

Lord Laird was also filmed by BBC discussing a regular payment to ask parliamentary questions. He has since resigned from the Ulster Unionist party,pending a review into the allegations.

The House of Lords code of conduct says peers cannot engage in “paid advocacy”,using their access to Parliament to make a profit. The ‘Sunday Times’ report suggests the three peers,who it filmed separately,may have broken those rules.

Lord Cunningham offered to write to Prime Minister David Cameron to push the solar energy company’s supposed agenda. He asked for a fee totalling £144,000 a year to provide a personal lobbying service. He also offered to ask parliamentary questions.

Cunningham told the reporters,posing as representatives of the fake South Korean solar energy company,that he would advise them on parliamentary affairs and become their advocate at Westminster.

Lord Mackenzie said he could arrange parties for paying clients,including on the terrace of the House of Lords.

“I was being interviewed in connection,I thought,with a position as a consultant for this energy company… not as a lobbyist,” he said.

Lord Laird,said he could arrange to get other peers involved. He said,“I did not agree to act as a paid advocate in any proceedings of the House”.

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