A day after the Telegraph’s expenses scoop prompted the Commons speaker to resign for the first time since 1695, the Sunday Times claimed a victory of its own in the Lords last night.
A Sunday Times Insight investigation into ‘cash for law amendments’ has led to two Labour peers becoming the first members of the upper chamber to be suspended in more than 350 years.
The House of Lords last night unanimously backed a report by the privileges committee which recommended suspension for Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor of Blackburn until the end of the parliamentary session – around six months.
The committee ruled that the pair broke rules which state that Lords must “always act on their personal honour”.
The controversy was triggered after the Sunday Times claimed in January that four Labour peers had told undercover journalists posing as lobbyists that they were willing to try to amend a bill in return for money.
The subcommittee on Lords’ interests, which investigated the four cases in detail before submitting its findings to the main privileges committee, concluded Lord Taylor displayed a “clear willingness” to breach the code of conduct.
Meanwhile, the evidence against Lord Truscott was said to be “so clear and plentiful that we have little doubt that (he) was advertising his power and his willingness to influence Parliament in return for substantial financial inducement”.
The code bans peers from accepting any financial inducement in return for exercising parliamentary influence.
The last individual to be suspended from the upper house is thought to have been Viscount Savile, who was barred in 1642 for siding with King Charles I.
Two other Labour peers implicated in the affair, Lord Moonie and Lord Snape, were cleared of any wrongdoing but ordered to apologise to the Lords for “inappropriate” conduct.
Voting was unanimous after a 90-minute debate, for which only Lord Snape was present from among the four.
Suspending a peer is a process so rarely used that the committee sought legal advice about whether it was possible.
Chairman of committees Lord Brabazon of Tara, presenting the findings, said: “This episode has done serious damage to the reputation of the house.
“We all have responsibility individually and collectively to uphold that reputation. That is why personal honour remains the cornerstone of the House’s code of conduct.
“Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor of Blackburn have not, we believe, acted on their personal honour.”
Also highlighting the expenses scandal in the Commons, she told peers: “Politicians have plunged Parliament to the low in which we find ourselves.”
She added: “We have not as politicians been doing our jobs in the way that people would want us to, with honesty, integrity and with honour.”