Four Lords Allegedly a-Lobbying
Reading the Sunday Times stuff about Lords Snape, Truscott, Moonie and Taylor has reinforced my belief that Labour shot itself in the foot by not fundamentally reforming the Lords years ago.
The problem is that unless a Peer is a Minister, they don't get paid a salary. So they have to have outside jobs. And if you are allowed as a Peer (as long as you declare all the relevant interests) to own a company, to run a charity or NGO, be a non-exec or executive director of a company, a lawyer for various clients, or a PR person for various clients, it is understandable that the current fudged position exists whereby you can sell political consultancy in the form of advice to clients, but not offer paid advocacy i.e. not talk to people on behalf of clients. The argument over the Sunday Times story is whether or not any of the four peers offered to advocate for clients rather than just advise them - if they did then they definitely broke the rules.
As readers may know, I work for a public affairs agency myself. Our trade body, the APPC, goes further than the House of Lords does and bans the employment of or any payment to Peers by member companies (as well as MPs, MSPs, WAMs, LAMs and MEPs). It says "In the view of APPC, it is inappropriate for a person to be both a legislator and a political consultant." As a lowly councillor, I'm banned from lobbying my own authority by my professional code of conduct - it's an obvious conflict of interest - and would lose my job if I did as the code is part of my contract of employment.
We need to have a House of Lords than is full-time, salaried, elected rather than appointed (preferably by a proportional voting system to counter-balance the FPTP elected Commons), and a lot smaller. Probably 200 full-time peers could do the necessary work of amending and scrutinising legislation.
I don't have a problem with the title Lord this or that being dished out to retired politicians, academics, senior generals and coppers etc. but it shouldn't carry with it a seat and a vote in the legislature. Thus removing the current potential for conflicts of interest.
Then the people with the honorific title "Lord Whatever" who aren't in parliament anymore can lobby away to their hearts' content, leaving the 200 elected ones - let's call them Senators - to get on with legislating and scrutinising without any distracting or corrupting second jobs.