This evening at 8pm Channel 4 have a Dispatches Special on Loans for Peerages. I've been sent a brief extract of the transcript on the part of the programme which compares the voting records of Peers given a working peerage by Tony Blair...
TONY BLAIR‘These are not honours, they’re working peerages, reserved for party supporters, Conservative supporters, Labour supporters, Liberal Democrat supporters. In my view, it is absurd to say that if someone supports a political party financially – helps it pay its bills, run its election campaigns – that they should be debarred from being party supporters for those places reserved specifically for party supporters.’
COMMENTARY: We decided to put the Prime Minister’s claim to the test. Have the life peers that he has brought in done the work that he expected of them. We commissioned some research into Tony Blair’s working peers. ‘Let’s start off with Lord Levy; a busy man. So what’s his attendance record like? How did he do this last year? Well, out of 63 sessions, he attended 35 – just over half. Not bad. Then let’s look at his voting record for the same year – what was it like? There were 67 votes and he voted in only seven. That gives him a voting record of just under 10 per cent. I have to say, for a man with a job, not taking it too seriously. Now for working Peers who donated money to the Labour Party. Here’s Lord Paul. He runs a large steel conglomerate. Let’s see what his attendance figures are like for a year. Out of 63 sessions, he attended 57 times – 90 per cent attendance. ‘Let’s see what he’s done in his voting record. Well, there were 67 votes taken. He only voted 24 times. Only 36 per cent per cent of the time did he vote. But still, he appears as the Blairite ideal. ‘Lord Grabiner, a top QC, attendance record 2004-5, out of 65 sessions, attended three. Only 5 per cent of the time. And how does that work out with his voting record. Out of 67 votes taken, he voted once. Not a great working record.
Next we looked at the overall performance of labour donor peers. On average attended their place of work only 40 per cent of the time. And they have bothered to vote only 25 per cent of the time. They may have jobs not honours, but they often don’t apply themselves with honour to their jobs.
But life in the upper chamber can lead to a top job – sitting on an important committee or even as a minister. Lord DRAYSON donated more than £1m, including £500,000 in 2004, nine days after he was given a peerage. He is now a defence minister. Lord GOLDSMITH gave a comparably humble £6,000. He is the attorney general. Lord SAINSBURY – well, he’s thought to have given the party up to £12m. And he’s a science minister.
Tune in to Channel 4 at 8pm