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Privileges Committee

Volume 694: debated on Thursday 26 July 2007

rose to move, That the first report from the Select Committee be agreed to (HL Paper 140).

The report can be found at the following address:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this report invites the House to establish a register of interests for Members’ research assistants and secretaries. There has been such a register in the House of Commons since 1985.

The register in another place covers two categories of interest. In relation to the first of these, our report recommends a slightly different formula. In another place, research assistants and secretaries are required to register,

“any occupation or employment for which they receive over £300 from the same source in the course of a calendar year, if that occupation or employment is in any way advantaged by the privileged access to Parliament afforded by their pass”.

The Committee for Privileges concluded, for reasons given in the report, that this House should use a shorter formula, namely,

“any employment, or any other financial interest, in businesses or organisations involved in parliamentary lobbying”.

I should make clear that the reference to,

“businesses or organisations involved in parliamentary lobbying”,

is not confined to professional lobbying firms. It would also cover trade associations, professional organisations and other companies and, for example, organisations which send briefing material to your Lordships. The report proposes that the second category of interest to be registered should be the same as in another place, namely,

“any gift (e.g. jewellery) or benefit (e.g. hospitality, services or facilities) they receive in the course of a calendar year, if the value of the gift or benefit exceeds £300 and if it in any way relates to or arises from their work in Parliament”.

It may be helpful if I explain briefly what will follow if your Lordships agree to this report today. The report proposes that the register should come into operation at the beginning of 2008. The registrar will, therefore, write soon after the House resumes in October to all noble Lords who have research assistants or secretaries. They will be asked to arrange for those concerned to complete a form recording any registrable interests. From that time on, the form will also be sent to any new applicant for a pass for a research assistant or secretary, and the pass will not be issued until the form has been completed.

The registrar will be available to advise on what interests are required to be registered, as with the Register of Lords’ Interests. The new register will come into operation in January 2008. It will not be published in paper form but, like the equivalent register in another place, will be available on the internet and updated regularly. I beg to move.

Moved, That the first report from the Select Committee be agreed to (HL Paper 140).—(The Chairman of Committees.)

My Lords, I welcome the committee’s report. Perhaps I may ask the Chairman of Committees a general question on Lords’ interests. If my memory is correct, when a register was introduced after some difficulty, Lord Williams of Mostyn promised that after two years had elapsed there would be a review of the procedure. I cannot recall that review having taken place. If it has, I apologise but, if it has not, can my noble friend explain why and say when it will take place?

My Lords, my understanding is that a review did take place and that no change was recommended. So far as concerns the Motion that I am moving today, the procedure will be reviewed after one year.

On Question, Motion agreed to.