UK: MPs Caught in Bribery Sting

Published: 04 June 2013


Three members of Britain’s House of Lords were suspended by their parties after undercover journalists allegedly got them to agree to lobby in return for cash, the AP reported.

A Sunday Times reporter posed as a lobbyist from a solar energy firm; the three politicians allegedly agreed to use their influence to push the firm’s agenda in return for monthly payments of up to $18,000, the AP reported.

Brian Mackenzie and Jack Cunningham of the Labour Party and John Laird of the Ulster Unionist Party all denied wrongdoing. The two Labour Party members have been suspended, while Laird quit his position pending a review.

On May 31, another legislator stepped down after he found himself the subject of a similar undercover investigation by the BBC’s Panorama program. Patrick Mercer of the House of Commons allegedly agreed to work on behalf of a nonexistent company to push for Fiji’s reintroduction to the British Commonwealth despite continued sanctions over Fiji’s rights record. Mercer left his position in the Conservative party caucus to save his party embarrassment, the BBC reported.

Mercer has claimed that he agreed to work on a consultancy basis outside the bounds of his Parliament position; BBC’s Panorama pointed out that the lawmaker “submitted five parliamentary questions, which were all answered, as well as an early day motion --all in relation to Fiji.”

UK politicians are required to disclose money received beyond their normal salary, but Panorama alleged that the payments made to Mercer -- through the fictitious company -- had not been disclosed. Members of Parliament are also strictly forbidden from acting as paid advocates: specifically asking questions or performing specific parliamentary duties in return for monetary compensation, the BBC reported.

While Mercer has resigned his position as a member of the Tory (Conservative) Party, under British law, he continues his role as an independent member of the House of Commons.

The latest scandals are set to reignite debate on lobbying reform, a focal point of the current coalition government agreement.