Peter Hoskin

Cash for amendments threatens to sink Parliament’s reputation further

Cash for amendments threatens to sink Parliament's reputation further
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One of last year's most memorable political quotes came courtesy of Frank Field, always one of the Good Men of Parliament.  In the aftermath of the Derek Conway affair, he lamented "...it is difficult to think how much lower our collective reputation might sink among voters generally."  It sounded true enough at the time.

Under a year later, though, that reputation has sunk to lower depths.  In one way or another, the squabble over the publication of expenses, the Damian Green arrest, and fresh donations scandals have all undermined Parliament's standing - and rightly so.  And now there could be a new villainy to add to the list.  The Sunday Times alleges today that Labour peers are "prepared" to accept cash from "business clients" in exchange for amending laws.  The four peers they name are: Lord Truscott, Lord Taylor of Blackburn, Lord Moonie and Lord Snape.

Now, let's reserve judgement until after the allegations are properly investigated.  And let's hope that that investigation gets called promptly.  But, as Ken Clarke said earlier, if the Sunday Times story is true, we're talking about serious corruption here.  At a time when people are struggling in the face of recession, for peers to accept £1,000s to represent business interests would be deeply hypocritical and immoral. 

What's needed from the party leaders is not just a return to the "new politics" rhetoric, but a real commitment to bringing that "new politics" about.  And not just for the sake of extra votes - although I'm sure they'd come - but for the sake of our democracy.