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UK Parliament – Sleaze in British Politics – The 1990s

A series of scandals affected Parliament in the 1990s.

Neil Hamilton MP was accused of accepting payment from Mohamed Al-Fayed, the owner of Harrods, to ask questions on his behalf in Parliament though he has always denied this. One of the Conservative Whips was found to have approached members of the Standards and Privileges Committee to try to persuade them not to investigate the affair

Sunday Times journalists pretending to be from a firm rang MPs to offer them cash to ask questions in Parliament. Most either refused or offered to ask the questions for nothing but two Conservative MPs accepted. The Standards and Privileges Committee suspended them for a few days and criticised the Sunday Times for trying to trap MPs

Sir Jeremy Wiggen MP, the consultant for the caravan industry, put down an amendment to a Bill affecting the industry in the name of another MP as he could not do it in his own name given his interest.

John Major also having to deal with sexual scandals related to other Conservative MPs and Ministers and being challenged by John Redwood, who was making sleaze an issue, for the Conservative Party leadership, set up the Nolan Committee to investigate the whole issue of MPs’ interests.

Effects of the Nolan Report

The Nolan Report had major effects:-

  • A permanent Committee on Standards in Public Life was set up and this has regularly issued recommendations for all areas of government.
  • A Commissioner for Standards was created to investigate complaints against MPs. ending the system of self-regulation.
  • The Register of Member’s Interests was strengthened and made compulsory.