Crisis meetings are to take place in the House of Lords today over a series of sleaze allegations against peers, the Guardian can disclose. These include accusations that cash has been taken from lobbyists, passes handed out to commercial interests and expenses improperly claimed.
A special meeting has been called of the full Lords privileges committee, on which all the peers' party leaders sit. It is due to discuss whether an official inquiry can go ahead into Doug Hoyle's alleged receipt of cash from an arms company lobbyist.
A subcommittee led by Lord Woolf, the former lord chief justice, was originally scheduled to meet on Tuesday to try to question Lord Hoyle about a complaint suggesting he could have breached the peers' code of conduct.
The Guardian revealed last year that Hoyle, a former Warrington MP and Labour frontbencher, secured a personal introduction for the lobbyist to Paul Drayson, then the arms procurement minister.
But sources close to the privileges committee, whose members include Lady Ashton, Labour leader of the Lords, say there are doubts about whether the subcommittee is capable of conducting the unprecedented inquiry without support.
The increase in allegations is also causing resentment among some peers, who are unaccustomed to being in the firing-line. Unlike the Commons, which has a professional standards commissioner, the Lords does not have an effective means of dealing with ethics complaints.