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Tuesday, 24 July, 2001, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Lords register review pledged
House of Lords
Peers' will have to declare their relevant interests
The government has granted a review of rules on business and financial interests of members of the House of Lords, even before they come into force.

It follows fears that peers' privacy may be infringed by the need to divulge details about friends' and family's interests - one peer had labelled the rules an "informal Gestapo".

It is right that we should review sceptically all aspects of this code before we are made to live with it

Lord Strathclyde
Under the code - to be introduced next year - peers will have to register all financial and non-financial interests which the public may think could influence their decisions.

The code will come in to practice on 31 March, 2002 and will be reviewed 18-months later.

The decision has been seen as a concession from the government following the narrow vote in favour of the code in July.

Lords Leader Lord Williams of Mostyn said: "I agree ... that we would benefit from a review of the operation of the code once it has bedded down."

But Lord Strathclyde, his Tory opposite number in the Upper House, said the code was "riddled with generalities and uncertainties".

He said: "It is right that we should review sceptically all aspects of this code before we are made to live with it.

Small print confusion

"It's not the principle that's the problem - that is done, dusted and agreed - but it is the small print that is causing an increasing amount of confusion.

"It cries out for clarification and amendment if this House is not to risk derision and still worse ridicule or, even worse, will be ignored by those members of this House."

Lord Strathclyde
Lord Strathclyde expressed misgivings
The Committee on Standards in Public Life had recommended the mandatory register but it will not be as prescriptive as that for MPs, who are required to disclose an indication of the annual income they receive from non-parliamentary sources.

That was in recognition of the fact that most peers, unlike MPs, are not full time.

Under the code, peers will be required to register all interests, whether financial or non-financial, that "might reasonably be thought by the public" to affect the way in which they discharge their duties.

One clause which states that "relevant" friends' and relatives' interests must also be acknowledged.

Allegations of breaches of the code would, as now, be investigated by a sub-committee of the Lords' Committee for Privileges, chaired by retired Law Lord and former standards committee chairman crossbencher Lord Nolan.

Lord Williams announced an amendment to the code which stipulated that allegations of misconduct against peers should be made in private.

He said: "This is purely a consequential order following on a decision that has already been made."

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01 May 01 | UK Politics
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