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Tuesday, 25 September, 2001, 20:52 GMT 21:52 UK
Lib Dem peers told to end lobbying
The House of Lords
Some peers work outside the Lords for lobbying firms
Liberal Democrat peers have been urged to ditch political lobbying work in a controversial conference motion.

Although the decision looks set to affect only one peer - health spokesman Lord Clement-Jones, it will embarrass some senior Liberal Democrat figures.


One of the principal reasons for the low turnout is that the perception of our politicians has fallen

Andy Myles
Lib Dem delegate
The motion, which was passed by a clear majority in Bournemouth on Tuesday afternoon, changes party policy to ban any MP or peer from working from a lobbying company.

And it "respectfully requested" those Lib Dem parliamentarians and their staff who do work for such firms to stop doing so in the next two years.

Proposing the motion, Edinburgh delegate Andy Myles said lobbying was essential because it provided information, arguments and research to politicians who did not know everything.

But he argued there had to be a distinction between lobbyists and the politicians, who made the decisions.

Turnout fears

He argued the move would help to boost the reputation of politicians, saying: "I am desperately worried about the low turnout on our general election and one of the principal reasons is that the perception of our politicians has fallen."

Donnachadh McCarthy, the self-style scourge of the Lib Dem leadership and key promoter of the change, said they had tried 11 times before to get the motion debated.

"The motion makes absolutely no accusations of impropriety against individuals," he said, arguing that it was the perception of conflict of interest he wanted to remove from all parties.

Individual decison

Party officials say it will be up to Lord Clement-Jones to decide what how to react to the motion.

Other prominent peers that could have been affected include Lord McNally, who officials say is likely to retire before the two year deadline ends.

Charles Kennedy's chief of staff, Lord Newby, has already resigned his lobbying work to set up a "cause related" marketing group not affected by the motion.

The debate saw fervent arguments advanced against the motion, with some delegates arguing it was singling out a specific group.

'Illiberal motion'

Baroness Barker, the conference committee chairman, said: "This motion is ill-founded and illiberal.

"Let us leave it as the distraction that it is and get on with the real job of building support for a fully elected, sleaze free second chamber."

While her work for a charity would be unaffected, there were some peers who did not have "bags of money" and needed to work outside the Lords, where only expenses are paid.

Other speakers pointed to the new Neill regulations on peers' interests and Ian Wright, president of the Institute of Public Relations and a party member, called the motion's proposals an attack on human rights.

An amendment proposing that changes should not come into effect until a fully elected and paid second chamber was delivered was soundly defeated.

It is understood the issue will be discussed by the Lib Dem group in the House of Lords in coming weeks.

While the implications are most clear for the House of Lords, the motion does cover all parliamentarians at Westminster or Strasbourg and calls on MEPs to make the European Parliament's existing registers of lobbyists more vigorous.


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24 Jul 01 | UK Politics
01 May 01 | UK Politics
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