Page last updated at 14:18 GMT, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Peers row: What commentators say

Pressure is growing on the House of Lords to impose tougher rules on paid consultancy work carried out by its members after four Labour peers were accused in the Sunday Times of offering help to amend laws for cash. Here is what newspaper columnists and political blogs had to say about the row.

On its front page, The Daily Mail accuses peers of "raking in the fees". The paper says it has found that 145 peers out of 743 who are eligible to sit in the upper chamber are acting as "consultants" or "advisers" to outside interests. The paper describes this as a "parliamentary cottage industry", potentially worth millions. Sketch writer Quentin Letts is on typically scathing form, writing: "No one had done anything wrong - nooooo, no, no - and yet there was a great deal of apologising. Which only goes to show what big-hearted Joes these politicians are..."

The Daily Telegraph has more on one of the four Labour peers who have been forced to deny claims that they were prepared to take cash in return for changing legislation. It says Lord Moonie gave a parliamentary pass to a former lobbyist from the defence industry - Robin Ashby. The Telegraph questions why this was done and notes the passes are usually reserved for staff. Mr Ashby says he did receive the pass from Lord Moonie - but says it was because he was working for an all-parliamentary group. He denies ever using the pass for lobbying purposes. Political correspondent Andrew Pierce says that whatever the outcome of the current row, the Lords is on course for long overdue reform.

The Times, in an editorial headed "cash for answers", says the allegations against the four peers "read like a definition of corruption" call into doubt the viability of the Lords in its current form: "The power of the House of Lords is entirely dependent on its credibility. In the absence of the democratic mandate that comes from election, the legitimacy of the Lords relies on it serving its purpose well and with unimpeachable integrity."

"The House of Lords? They should rename it the House of Whores," writes Sun columnist Fergus Shanahan, in a strongly worded piece. The paper headlines its news story on the row: "Peers Morons" and says the four peers could be "kicked out" of the Lords if found guilty of wrongdoing. The Daily Mirror carries an inside page lead on the story, headlined "Lord-for-sale: I'm cheap at £100,000."

George Monbiot, writing in The Guardian, says the lobbying scandal confirms that the dying days of Labour are upon us - and predicts further sleaze scandals as disillusioned officials risk their liberty by leaking documents that should have been freely available, and journalists, scenting blood, close in.

The LabourHome blog, for party supporters, dubs the story "madness" and adds: "We need this like a hole in the head." Comments centre on the role of "unaccountable" peers and the need for the second chamber to be elected. "These people are answerable to nobody, therefore they feel no pressure of responsibility, accountability; they don't need to behave well to ensure re-election because they were never elected in the first place," writes doctordunc.

Labour MP Paul Flynn, who has led calls for curbs on lobbying, sounds a note of caution on his blog. stressing that "no money has changed hands" and no wrongdoing proved, but after watching Monday's statements by Lord Taylor and Snape, he notes: "Their lordships are embarrassed and fuming. Few have any sympathy for the journalists' targets. Fire and brimstone is being prepared. They are determined on one path, There will be reforms."



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