Minister Says House Of Lords Needs A “Rich Mix” Of Peers After Tory Donor Row
There is a new row over Conservative Party Treasurers being elevated to the House of Lords (Alamy)
A senior Cabinet minister has defended peerages being handed to wealthy Tory donors by saying there needs to be a “rich mix in the House of Lords”.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the international trade secretary, said those elevated to Parliament’s unelected upper chamber have "usually done enormously good work”.
An investigation by The Sunday Times and OpenDemocracy found numerous Conservative party Treasurers had been made peers after they had donated more than £3million.
But Trevelyan has denied any wrongdoing, telling Sky News she didn’t think “that someone who happens to have been an extremely good businessman and has made a great deal of money” should be barred from going to the House of Lords.
She added: "Those who choose to put themselves forward in political environments, as well as their business and philanthropic ones, will go through the process just like anyone else, and we want a rich mix in the House of Lords of voices with experience of all the sectors of our country."
The row over peerages is the latest issue in a growing row over standards in politics, sparked by the report into alleged lobbying by former minister Owen Paterson for two companies who were paying him.
The Commons will hold an emergency debate on the subject this afternoon, but Trevelyan said she did not think Boris Johnson needed to attend.
"My opinion would be that no, he shouldn't be there, he will no doubt – as we all do – have the House of Commons on in his office as he's dealing with many, many other issues that only a Prime Minister that can deal with,” she explained.
"He will get a briefing of the key issues raised by colleagues from across the House later on, I believe that the Leader and other ministers will be well placed to take the despatch box this afternoon."
One of the matters that will be debated is MPs taking second jobs, with Trevelyan saying roles that involve paid advocacy should be "looked at again".
But Labour’s Chris Bryant, chair of the House of Commons Committee on Standards, told Sky News there is already a rule stopping ministers being lobbied on behalf of clients, "which is exactly what Owen Paterson was found guilty of”.
Paterson, the former-environment secretary, was found to have repeatedly broken the rules on paid advocacy by the Commons Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone, with Bryant’s committee then recommending he be suspended from the House for 30 days.
In response the government backed an amendment to pause the process and set up an appeals panel, but despite winning a vote the plans collapsed after opposition parties refused to take part.
Tory MPs still want to reform the standards process and have criticised Stone for the way she has investigated colleagues, and Trevelyan said Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is likely to make a statement in the chamber on the issue later today.
After calls for Stone to consider her position Trevelyan said she has "no doubt" the commissioner will stay in her job, adding: "The Speaker of the House, I think, will be making a statement about considering how to mend the way the committee works, that Kathryn runs.
"I think that's the conversation that we need to have, because colleagues have for some time felt that the way the committee works doesn't have all the relevant protections and safeguards that it should have.
"We will continue to do that and I hope that Kathryn's situation will be eased, and that those aggressive voices will be removed from her environment."
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