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Thursday, 16 November, 2000, 12:34 GMT
Peers face code of conduct
House of Lords
Most peers are not paid and have outside interests
A mandatory register of interests and a code of conduct for the House of Lords is urged in a report by the Neill Committee on Standards in Public Life.

The panel, chaired by Lord Neill of Bladen, has been looking at the Lords in the aftermath of the departure of 600 hereditary peers last November.

It is not necessary to put in place a regime to deal with non-existent allegations of abuse

Lord Neill
There had been worries that the remaining life peers, bishops and 92 hereditaries are now vulnerable to more robust lobbying by single issue pressure groups.

But the committee's report has not been prompted by claims of misconduct.

Sense of honour

Lord Neill said the Lords had traditionally relied on a sense of honour to uphold standards.

The penalty for contravening a code of conduct would be one of "naming and shaming" and a complex regulatory framework was not appropriate, Lord Neill said.

"There are no cases of abuse - scandals - in the House of Lords.

"It seemed to us it is not necessary to put in place a regime to deal with non-existent allegations of abuse," he said.

The report also makes clear that while most peers receive no salary, the Lords have long endorsed the principle that financial rewards should not influence the activity of peers in the House.

But the committee recommends the ending of voluntary registration of interests.

In this way public confidence will be maintained that the highest standards of conduct are being upheld, it says.

'Leading by example'

The Leader of the Lords Baroness Jay was positive about the report: "The government has long believed there should be a register of interests in the Lords and very much welcomes Lord Neill's recommendations."

"We have always stressed the importance of high standards of conduct in public life and complete transparency for all parliamentarians. We have led by example.

"Ministers in the Lords already declare their interests to the same level as in the Commons.

"The report is a welcome contribution to maintaining and raising standards. Its recommendations go to the House of Lords which must now respond.

"I will be consulting the opposition peers very soon to decide how to take this forward," she said.

Test of honour

Set up in 1994 by then Prime Minister John Major at the height of the Westminster row over MPs and cash-for-questions, the standards committee was first chaired by Lord Nolan.

In compiling its report the Neill Committee had taken evidence from leading members of the Upper House, MPs and constitutional experts.

It also looked at parliamentary consultancies, disciplinary procedures, investigative machinery and penalties.

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27 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Labour chief avoids Neill probe
26 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Lords should 'expect public scrutiny'
13 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Lords under anti-sleaze microscope
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