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Police drop investigation into 'rent-a-Lords'

Quivering peers brace for 'robust' treatment

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The Metropolitan Police has ended its investigation into four peers - Lord Moonie, Lord Truscott, Lord Taylor of Blackburn and Lord Snape - in part because getting evidence was proving too difficult.

The four men were caught in a Sunday Times sting allegedly offering improper help to undercover journalists in exchange for cash. They were allegedly caught on tape claiming to be able to delay or even amend legislation for corporate lobbyists.

The story led to a flurry of updates to the Lords' Register of Interests and led credit agency Experian to end its relationship with Lord Taylor. The company said it was surprised to hear Lord Taylor's apparent description of the work he did for it. Lord Taylor claimed to have amended draft legislation in favour of the company. He said he was paid up to £100,000 a year for his help, which he described as cheap.

The LibDems referred the matter to the police who, after talking to the Crown Prosecution Service, have ended the probe.

A statement from the Metropolitan Police said: "the application of the criminal law to members of the House of Lords in the circumstances that have arisen here is far from clear. In addition, there are very clear difficulties in gathering and adducing evidence in these circumstances in the context of Parliamentary Privilege."

The Met said they had talked to the Leader of the House Baroness Royall of Blaisdon and were confident that the matter would be dealt with "robustly" by the Sub-Committee on Lords' Interests.

For the LibDems Chris Huhne said: "I can understand the difficulties facing the police given the unreformed and unclear state of the law on bribery, which is subject to recent reform proposals from the Law Commission.

"However, this is a disappointing decision because it is simply false to say that internal procedures will be able to deal with these cases, given that there is not even a mechanism for expelling miscreants."

In other news, complaints about Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's claim of £116,000 in allowances for a second home in Redditch have been rejected by the Parliamentary watchdog. Smith claimed her primary residence was a rented room in her sister's London house. ®

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