By Lynn Malone
The House of Lords lobbying scandal has received worldwide condemnation amid a flurry of headline grabbing articles from around the globe.
Headlines include the Indian Express, which reports on “Britain stung by scandal” while the Chicago Tribune and Bloomberg focus on how the row “…hits Britain’s parliament” and “Labour Suspends Peers Accused of Breaching U.K. Parliament Rules.”
The suspension of Labour Peers Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate and Lord Cunningham generated international headlines when they were accused of carrying out parliamentary work for payment. They had been under investigation by several undercover media sting operations and allegations include accepting bribes in return for asking parliamentary questions.
Angus MacNeil, the SNP MP who initiated the cash-for-honours inquiry, is calling for reform following the Lords sleaze scandal. Mr MacNeil is questioning the refusal of successive parties to modernise the second chamber.
“There have been plans going back decades to have proper elections for the House of Lords and calls for years to reform the way in which unelected peers are lobbied – but the House of Lords is an inherently undemocratic institution which looks to be incapable of fundamental change. This latest example of how Westminster isn’t working has generated headlines around the world.” the SNP MP said.
Mr MacNeil added that the House of Lords lacks legitimacy because of its anachronistic and undemocratic membership – more than 800 unelected peers still vote for legislation impacting on Scotland.
“It is another reason why we must grasp the opportunity of a Yes vote next September, and enable Scotland to get rid of this undemocratic and expensive Westminster institution once and for all.
“Scotland already has a modern, democratically representative Parliament at Holyrood, and it is there that decisions which affect people in Scotland should rightfully be taken and scrutinised.” He said.
The Coalition Government has faced heavy criticism for employing delaying tactics in bringing in a register of lobbyists and introducing a mechanism to remove MPs accused of breaking parliamentary rules.
Nick Clegg has now promised “head-to-toe-reform” of the political system as Westminster recovers from its latest shame.
In an article in the Daily Telegraph the deputy prime minister wrote “I know that the absence of the register from last month’s Queen’s Speech raised some concerns. So let me be clear: it will happen. Having consulted on the proposal, the detail is being looked at thoroughly in Government.”
He added: “Westminster remains a place where power is hoarded, decisions are opaque, and the people who take those decisions are not properly held to account. Our political system has long been crying out for head-to-toe reform.”
But former Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman, Lord Oakeshott, told the Times newspaper that the task of cleaning up Westminster was akin to eradicating malaria in Africa, and said the register of lobbyists proposed at present would do little more than apply disinfectant to the mosquito.
“We need to clean the whole stinking swamp that is the House of Lords,” Lord Oakeshott added.
“Until we deal with the problem of big donations as all parties have promised to do and yet failed to act on, there will remain a strong suspicion that a large bung can get you a seat in the Lords.”
Lord Oakeshott said that the House of Lords had no mechanism to expel people found to have done wrong. “This is absolute nonsense, of course,” he said.
“I listened to Baroness Uddin the other day pontificating about the state of the country, and this is ridiculous when she has been caught fiddling her expenses.”
Downing Street has announced a bill to create a statutory register of lobbyists is to be brought in before Parliament breaks for its summer recess next month.
David Cameron’s official spokesman confirmed the bill creating a lobbyists register will also include measures to end self-certification of union membership and reform third-party contributions to election campaigns, according to The Telegraph.