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Page last updated at 11:29 GMT, Sunday, 25 January 2009

Royall Commission?

On Sunday 25 January, Andrew Marr interviewed Lady Royall, leader of the House of Lords

Please note 'The Andrew Marr Show' must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

House of Lords Leader promises full investigation.

Lady Royall
Lady Royall, leader of the House of Lords

ANDREW MARR: Now, as you heard in the news, there have been allegations this morning that four Labour peers were prepared to accept money in order to change proposed new legislation going through parliament.

The Labour Leader in the Lords said she's determined to get to the bottom of the matter.

Baroness Royall, thank you for joining us.

LADY ROYALL: Good morning.

ANDREW MARR: Given what the rules are about not taking money in order to influence legislation - if what's said in the Sunday Times is true then these peers have broken the rules, have they not?

LADY ROYALL: Well, for the moment, Andrew, these are allegations...

ANDREW MARR: Yes.

LADY ROYALL: ...and I want to ensure that they are properly investigated. Once we have seen clearly what the issues are, then we'll see whether or not action is necessary.

ANDREW MARR: But I come... I mean to explain to people who haven't perhaps read the paper, the reporters taped conversations with these peers in the tearoom and elsewhere, posing as companies who wanted legislation changed; and in each of the cases they were told that this was "perfectly possible, give me the money and I can work behind the scenes to get legislation changed" in the way that couldn't happen in the House of Commons these days we're told, we believe. I come back to the point if it's true, it's pretty outrageous.

LADY ROYALL: If it's true. These people were entrapped. If it's true, it's a very grim picture, but we do have to look into the details very carefully.

That is why the procedures in the House of Lords will be followed vis--vis an inquiry, but I personally am very concerned about the reputation of the Lords, about the reputation of parliament, and about the reputation of politics itself. That is why I will be looking into this most carefully.

ANDREW MARR: Well I precede everything of course by saying if it's true, and there have been denials from the peers this morning...

LADY ROYALL: Indeed.

ANDREW MARR: ...and we understand that. But the rules appear to be clear that you can't take money - and I want to be clear about this - in order to change legislation. That's the case?

LADY ROYALL: You cannot take... You cannot put down amendments, you cannot put down questions and receive money so to do. The people mentioned in the article this morning are clear that they did not accept money for doing these things.

ANDREW MARR: So if I was a peer and I took money to change something and I went to you being another peer and said, "Could you put down an amendment?", would that be within the rules?

LADY ROYALL: I think all these things have got to be looked at very carefully and I don't want to make any statements or comments which are going to impinge on the inquiries which are going to take place. Clearly it looks very serious, but I am concerned that everybody's side of the story should be heard. We don't have trial by media in this country.

ANDREW MARR: So if you carry out this investigation and it turns out that what is said by the Sunday Times is accurate and that therefore on the face of it the rules have clearly been broken, what could you actually do?

Because one of the peers says, "Oh well they can't actually do anything to us. They can... " And he says, "They can jump up and down, but they can't do any more than that".

LADY ROYALL: Well we have a new procedure in place and ultimately the peers would be sort of named, I guess named and shamed in the Chamber of the House of Lords. Now to people out there, that might not seem...

ANDREW MARR: No.

LADY ROYALL: ...like very much, but, believe you me, to peers themselves it is extremely serious. It may be on reflection that we have to look at these things again, but, as I say, we're at the very beginning of these procedures.

ANDREW MARR: You couldn't actually throw somebody out of the House of Lords, could you?

LADY ROYALL: At present, no one cannot throw anybody out of the House of Lords.

ANDREW MARR: So is this not, whatever else it is, very clear evidence of the need for radical change in the Upper House?

LADY ROYALL: I think the Labour Party has always accepted that there has to be radical change in the House of Lords with reform of the House of Lords, and these things we are constantly looking at because we want to ensure that we have the toughest levels of probity. We want to ensure that high standards are there and that they're properly adhered to.

ANDREW MARR: And you yourself, do you feel comfortable reading what these people have said about the way they operate in the House of Lords?

LADY ROYALL: I don't feel comfortable reading about that. But, as I say, at the moment we only have the newspapers' side of things and I think it's important to hear what these people actually said, and so I don't want to make any comments until I've seen the story in the round.

ANDREW MARR: Right. And if they didn't put down those amendments themselves, are they technically in the clear?

LADY ROYALL: I believe that they would technically be in the clear. But these are things that have to be looked into.

ANDREW MARR: Alright. Lady Royall, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

LADY ROYALL: Not at all, thank you.

INTERVIEW ENDS


Please note "The Andrew Marr Show" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.


NB: This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy


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