Anne-Marie Trevelyan defended the House of Lords by claiming there are a “rich variety” of people who have been elevated to be peers – only for journalist Kay Burley to point out a key error with the minister’s wording.
The international trade secretary was fielding questions about sleaze in the Tory Party after it was found that donors who had given more than £3 million to the Conservatives usually went on to become peers in the House of Lords.
Trevelyan defended her party – after admitting she had not even read the investigation’s findings – and said: “We want a rich mix in the House of Lords of voices with experience in all the sectors of our country.”
Sky News’ Kay Burley hit back: “Rich being the operative word there.”
A joint investigation by The Sunday Times and Open Democracy published over the weekend claimed there was a new “cash peerages” scandal brewing within the Conservative Party after 16 of the party’s main treasurers have reportedly been offered a seat in the Lords over the last two decades.
According to the probe, the only exception to this pattern is the most recent treasurer who stood down in September.
After 11 consecutive years in Downing Street, Conservative governments have pushed nine of the party’s former treasurers into the House of Lords.
Trevelyan was also pressed about the process of assigning peerages on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
According to the report, some people have become peers even after the independent House of Lords Appointments Commission advises against it, because the prime minister of the day has promoted that individual anyway.
Trevelyan replied: “The prime minister of the day, and of course that changes, has the final say on that – and we see in the House of Lords a rich mixture.”
But the GMB presenters asked: “What’s the point of having the process if the process is going to be ignored?”
The international trade secretary deflected the question, and claimed that a variety of people in the Lords helps “bring extraordinary skills” to Westminster.
The international trade secretary was also pressed about the primary Tory scandal which has been unfolding over the last week.
Former Tory MP Owen Paterson was found to have breached Parliament’s lobbying rules by campaigning on behalf of two companies which paid him as a consultant, but his Conservative colleagues voted to drop his subsequent punishment of a 30-day suspension.
This meant the Commons had overruled the independent MPs’ watchdog – a move which caused public outcry, and led the government to U-turn over the vote the following day.
Paterson then resigned in the fallout, but questions over MPs and conflicting interests when it comes to their second jobs remain.
Pressed over whether MPs should even have a second job, Trevelyan said: “My view is that I think most who are doctors and nurses who continue to maintain their professional credentials and indeed serve in their original profession, I think the question of whether MPs having jobs which involve lobbying should be looked at again.
“But across the board I don’t think we should have a removal of the ability to maintain or have a second job because it brings a richness to our role as members of parliament as well as the work we do day to day with our constituents.”
There is also a question mark over whether Paterson himself will become a peer in the aftermath of this fallout, as a way for the prime minister to make amends for throwing the former MP under the bus with his U-turn.