University to appoint “cash for laws” peer to university court

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A Labour peer embroiled in the ‘cash for laws’ scandal is this week to be made a life member of Lancaster University’s Court, SCAN has learned.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn, 79, has been awarded the life membership in recognition of his services to the university. He was a member of the Executive Council for the Establishment of a University at Lancaster in 1963 and a Deputy Pro-Chancellor of the university from 1972 to 1995. He is also a life member of LUSU.

The Court of the University is a group of bodies who have an interest in the university, including local MPs, heads of local schools, academics and alumni. They meet annually, with their 2009 meeting set to take place this Saturday, 31st January.

It was alleged in The Sunday Times on 25th January that Lord Taylor, along with three other members of the House of Lords, was prepared to amend laws for his personal clients for fees of up to £120,000.

An undercover reporter, posing as a lobbyist acting on behalf of a fictitious businessman from Hong Kong, recorded Lord Taylor agreeing to discuss the amendment with Yvette Cooper, chief Secretary to the Treasury, amongst others.

‘I will work within the rules, but the rules are meant to be bent sometimes,’ he said, referring to the fact that peers may not promote the cause of a paid client.

He also claimed he had previously changed a law in favour of credit-check company Experian, also a client of his.

Lord Taylor, a former BAE consultant, apologised to the House of Lords yesterday for his part in the affair, saying ‘If I have done anything that has brought this House into disrepute I most humbly apologise.’ However, he followed this by stating that within his ‘own conscience’ he had broken no rules.

The University’s Press Office confirmed that Lord Taylor will still receive the award, which was approved by the University Council in November 2008. They did not wish to comment on whether his alleged corruption in the House of Lords would have any impact on his suitability for Court.

In addition to his life membership, Lord Taylor was to propose Sir Chris Bonington to be reappointed as Chancellor of the university. As yet SCAN has been unable to contact the university to confirm this will still take place.

It is not the first time that Lord Taylor—a close friend of Jack Straw, the Minister for Justice—has had to apologise for his actions as a peer. In October of last year he asked a question in the House of Parliament on behalf of a paid client without first declaring an interest.

Since the ‘cash for questions’ row fifteen years ago, members of the House of Commons have been subjected to a considerable amount of scrutiny. This is not the case for the House of Lords, which is why its members are more likely to be targeted by lobbyists.

Despite peers not being elected, they have a considerable influence in the Government. Last year they threw out governmental plans to allow suspected terrorists to be detained for up to 42 days.

Although they are unpaid they enjoy a considerable amount of privileges—including a BlackBerry and two return trips to Europe each year—and when sitting in the House can claim expenses for overnight accommodation, office costs and travel.

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