UK Politics

Two peers set to be suspended by House of Lords

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Media captionThe BBC's Robin Brant: "Any punishment they face runs out at the end of Parliament"

Two peers are set to be suspended from the House of Lords after being recorded offering to do paid parliamentary work by undercover reporters.

The Lords Conduct Committee wants the Labour peer Lord Mackenzie banned for six months.

It is also recommending that the former Ulster Unionist Lord Laird is banned for four months.

Reporters from The Sunday Times had purported to be consultants acting for a South Korean solar energy investor.

They were recorded offering to set up an all party parliamentary group to lobby for the fictitious company.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate - a former advisor to Tony Blair when he was prime minister - also broke the rule which bans members using the Houses of Parliament to host events for paying clients.

'Severe sanction'

In a separate undercover sting Lord Laird was caught by BBC Panorama journalists offering to set up a parliamentary lobby group for a fake organisation linked to Fiji.

The committee said that although Lord Laird had not signed any agreement with the fake companies he had "expressed a clear willingness to breach the House's Code of Conduct... that Members should always act on their personal honour".

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt said: "This is a severe sanction, reflecting a very serious lapse in judgement by Lord Laird.

"When the news first broke in June, the Ulster Unionist Party moved swiftly to remove the party whip. This remains the case.

"The party leadership will take the necessary time to read and reflect on the report from the House of Lords Committee for Privileges and Conduct, before discussing what happens when the four month sanction period has elapsed."

'Breached rules'

The committee said that Lord Mackenzie had breached rules on the use of parliamentary facilities, on accepting payment for the provision of parliamentary advice or services and by showing a willingness to negotiate had breached the code of conduct's requirement to act on his personal honour.

The House of Lords needs to vote to approve the suspensions before they can come into force.

Two other Labour peers were investigated but cleared.

Lord Cunningham - a former cabinet minister - and Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan also faced claims related to secret paid work for the solar company.

They are likely to be reinstated to the party. Lord Mackenzie is expected to remain suspended.

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