Senior Labour peer claims 'Leveson agenda' behind cash-for-question stings

The chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party has said the press is deliberately targeting politicians in sting operations because of a so-called “Leveson agenda”.

The comments from Lord Soley, made to BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend programme, came in the wake of the scandal that has resulted in two Labour peers being suspended from the party and one Ulster Unionist peer resigning the whip.

He said he had warned his colleagues in Parliament that the press was targeting them because of the ongoing debate around regulation of the press following the Leveson Inquiry.

Lord Soley said: “There is no doubt in my mind and I know this, that the press is trying to target both MPs and peers at times. Now that doesn’t justify anything that may or may not have happened but recognise that there is a Leveson agenda here. What we need is a proper regulatory body for the press along the lines of Leveson.”

He said he has told MPs and peers to “’be very alert at the moment’ because remember there is a call for proper regulation of the press”.

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Laird offered undercover reporters from The Daily Telegraph and BBC Panorama to arrange for colleagues to ask questions in Parliament in return for £2,000 a month.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Times reported that two Labour peers – Lord Mackenzie and Lord Cunningham – offered to use their influence to lobby for undercover reporters posing as lobbyists. Both deny breaking parliamentary rules.

The scandal comes just days after Panorama filmed Conservative MP Patrick Mercer apparently taking money from a fake Fijian lobbying group in return for asking questions in Parliament.

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