HL Deb 06 February 1995 vol 561 cc9-10

3.2 p.m.

Lord Marsh

My Lords, under the Standing Orders as I understand them, perhaps I may ask a question of the Leader of the House for guidance.

There seems to have been a leakage of a paper from one of the Members of this House regarding what is alleged to be improper behaviour on the part of a number of Members of this House. That information has apparently been obtained from someone who I understand the noble Lord is unable to name because he is paid by that person. Apparently, the alleged informant knows of some other chaps who know of other people who are also engaged in encouraging people to behave improperly. Is it possible for the noble Viscount the Leader of the House to give the noble Lord concerned the opportunity to cast light on these matters or to apologise?

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne)

My Lords, knowing the jealousy with which all Members of your Lordships' House rightly guard the reputation of this House, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, will agree with me that if allegations of so serious a nature are to be made about this House, whether by a Member of your Lordships' House or by anybody outside it, it is at least responsible for those making the allegations to be able to substantiate them.

I am sure that the noble Lord who has apparently made those allegations—whose nature I have myself only gathered from reading the press—will he in a position to substantiate them. Otherwise, we shall find ourselves in the difficult position of being blackguarded without any evidence to substantiate the blackguard, particularly in view of what the press calls the current climate.

I hope that, if there is any evidence whatsoever to substantiate the accusations that have been made, the noble Lord and his clients (in his professional capacity) will be able to substantiate those allegations. Otherwise, there is a risk of the reputation of this House being blackened in the public mind without substance.

I should like to add one further point. It is clear to all noble Lords that in the present climate it is incumbent on all of us to make sure that no suspicion can attach to Members of your Lordships' House. It is only right that your Lordships should have taken up the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, that the House should examine the question of whether we should establish a register of Member's interests. As your Lordships know, the noble and learned learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, has kindly consented to chair a sub-committee of the Procedure Committee to investigate that possibility. The Procedure Committee looks forward to receiving the noble and learned Lord's report.

No matter what the Procedure Committee may eventually recommend to your Lordships, it has long been the practice of the House for noble Lords to speak on their honour. Therefore, it is perhaps sensible for me to take advantage of the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, to suggest to your Lordships that, perhaps now more than at any other time, all of us should make sure that before we intervene in the business of the House if we have a financial interest to declare we should do so. To err on the side of over-declaration would be a fault on the right side.