How lords pocket fortunes from 'hostile' foreign nations

Revealed: How lords and lawmakers pocket fortunes from ‘hostile’ foreign nations while passing sensitive laws

  • A Mail On Sunday investigation show peers earning millions from foreign nations

Peers are pocketing millions from foreign nations including China and Saudi Arabia, a bombshell Mail on Sunday investigation can reveal.

Some lords earn up to seven figures a year from hostile states, offshore tax havens or the oil-rich Middle East while they help shape British legislation. And, shockingly, it is all within the rules.

We can disclose that 24 peers were paid more than £5 million in total in just 18 months from foreign sources including Libya, Iraq and Qatar.

Our worrying revelations have led for calls for peers to be banned from taking any cash from unfriendly states.

Tory MP Alicia Kearns, who chairs the foreign affairs select committee, has called the situation a ‘farce’ and called for a blacklist of nations which should be banned from bankrolling peers.

Former Chancellor Philip Hammond (pictured left, with Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa) has received £274,545 from Bahrain

She said: ‘These revelations raise concerns that peers could have undertaken paid lobbying on behalf of hostile foreign governments.’

Our investigation can reveal that:

  • Peers have been speaking in parliamentary debates and laying amendments linked to the foreign states that pay them;
  • Ex-Chancellor Philip Hammond’s personal pay-cheques from Middle Eastern governments include £274,545 from Bahrain;
  • An ex-Defence Minister has been paid £61,400 a year by a Libyan firm subject to UK sanctions;
  • Lord Levene, the former chair of Lloyd’s of London, was paid the equivalent of £29,000 over six months in 2022 as a director of the state-owned China Construction Bank;
  • Lord Goldsmith – Tony Blair’s Attorney General, whose legal advice paved the way for the Iraq war – was paid £381,000 in four months this year by the government of Azerbaijan alone;
  • Five peers gave parliamentary passes to employees of companies paid by foreign governments, while others have been involved in All-Party Parliamentary Groups linked to their earnings.

Unlike MPs, who must declare all outside payments, peers have traditionally not been required to reveal how much they receive. But following concerns over undue overseas influence, they were ordered to come clean about money paid by foreign governments or state-owned companies.

The MoS has obtained records submitted to the Lords Registrar since the new disclosure rules came in last year.

Financier Baroness Helena Morrisey has received £12,000 from Saudi Arabia’s government-owned Neom development


Lords are required to exercise ‘particular caution’ when it comes to potential conflicts of interest, especially when it comes to drafting legislation. Being on the payroll of foreign governments while also making laws is allowed and there is no suggestion of wrongdoing from any of the peers in our dossier.

Among those receiving money from abroad was ex-climate change tsar Lord Deben, the former Tory Minister John Gummer.

He was paid £10,000 last year for advising the oil- and gas-rich Qatari government through his consultancy firm Sancroft. At the same time he advised the UK Government on climate change and called Ministers ‘hypocrites’ for backing North Sea oil expansion. Lord Deben also sits on the Energy Costs All-Party Parliamentary Group, which has produced reports on Qatar while being employed by the emirate and has provided a parliamentary pass to a Sancroft employee.

He said all his declarations are ‘exactly according to the rules’ but declined to answer questions about the pass and his contributions to the parliamentary group.

Crossbench peer Lord Anderson was paid £40,915 by the Cypriot government for legal advice and representation last year. In March, he tabled an amendment to the National Security Bill which was favourable to the Cyprus government’s interests. Anderson declared his interest while speaking in the House, which meant he did not break any rules.

The biggest earner was veteran barrister Lord Pannick, who has been paid £1.9 million since last year, including £13,750 for advising the Cayman Islands government.

In May 2018, Lord Pannick spoke at a debate on the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill which the Cayman Islands government was concerned about.

Lord Pannick confirmed last night that he was employed by the tax haven to advise them on the legislation at the time, and did not declare the interest when speaking in the debate. He insisted he had not broken any rules and that his work for the Cayman Islands concerned a specific amendment which was not under discussion that day. However the Lords Code of Conduct says peers should consider all aspects of a Bill when deciding if their interest should be declared, and should ask for advice from the Registrar before intervening.

Lord Pannick declined to say whether he had checked with the Registar before speaking.

The 24-peer dossier also includes BP boss Lord Browne, former Cabinet Secretary Lord Sedwill and financier Baroness Helena Morrissey.

Last night even fellow peers expressed dismay at how lax the rules appear to be. Former Tory Defence Secretary Lord (Tom) King, said accepting money from foreign states was ‘very dubious’.

Lord (Gus) O’Donnell, the former head of the civil service, called for a tightening of the rules, saying the current situation could damage trust in the upper house. He added: ‘I believe there is a lot of scope for reviewing’ rules on payments.

Ex-Tory Party chairman Lord Francis Maude, 70, has earned £400,000 in consultancy fees from the governments of Bahrain and Iraq


MP Alicia Kearns called on the Lords to draw up a list of countries peers should stay clear of working for. She added: ‘The fact it has taken this long for peers’ income to be required to be publicly declared is a farce. As custodians of our democratic institutions, we need more than just the highest standards of transparency, we need integrity, and that means not working for sanctioned organisations or states hostile to our nation.’

Payment from China is seen as a particular concern. This weekend Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden called the nation the ‘number one threat to our economic security’ and urged institutions to ‘think twice’ before accepting money from there.

Some peers do not even specify which government pays them. Authorities allowed one lord not to declare which British Overseas Territory paid him £25,000 for ‘security concerns’.

Five peers in our dossier also gave parliamentary passes to people linked to the work they were doing for foreign governments.

Lord (Francis) Maude, a former Cabinet Office Minister, declared consultancy fees of up to £400,000 from Bahrain and Iraq. He has provided parliamentary passes to two employees of his consultancy – including its HR manager – through which he does his foreign government work.

Asked why he needed two parliamentary staffers when he has only spoken on three occasions in the Lords since 2020, each time on matters relevant to his advisory work, Lord Maude did not reply.

He is also a member of the parliamentary group on Iraq while being paid by the oil-rich state. There is no suggestion he has broken any rules.

A Lords spokesman said: ‘Members may only sponsor passes for staff members who require them in order to directly support them with their parliamentary work.’

The Code of Conduct says peers should exercise ‘particular caution’ over participating in proceedings on legislation in which they could be perceived as having an interest.

The spokesman added: ‘Members of the Lords are now required to register earnings from foreign governments, companies under the control of a foreign government or individuals acting as an official of a foreign government.

‘It would be wrong to suggest any member’s employment… means they are unable to exercise their responsibilities as parliamentarians. All members are required by the Code of Conduct to place the public interest above their own.’



Former Tory Chancellor

Was directly paid £274,545 by Bahrain government and £6,250 by Kuwait in 2021/22. Also paid £68,631 by the Saudi government last year through Matrix Partners, a company he controls and which has two employees – himself and his assistant (to whom he’s given a parliamentary pass). Asked how he ensured his assistant doesn’t use parliamentary privileges to benefit Matrix clients, Lord Hammond’s spokesman said: ‘The passholder does not routinely work on the Parliamentary Estate. The pass is only used for occasional access and to facilitate Lord Hammond’s parliamentary duties.’


Former chair of Lloyd’s of London

Was paid 275,000 Hong Kong dollars (£29,000) for six months in 2022 as a director of the state-owned China Construction Bank. Stopped being a director in June 2022 but remains an independent non-executive director and member of the board, according to its website. Declined to comment or clarify if the new role is paid.


Former BP boss

Paid £174,000 a year by Nogaholding, part of the Bahrain government’s National Oil and Gas Authority. Now on a leave of absence from the Lords which makes him exempt from disclosing further payments.


Former Defence Minister

Received $75,000 (£61,400) a year as a director of a fund directly owned by the Libyan Africa Investment Portfolio, which is subject to British government sanctions. The fund is owned by the Libyan state and manages its frozen assets. Lord Hamilton is also paid £1,000 for every board meeting he attends.


Veteran barrister

Paid £1.9 million since last year for legal work by governments including those in the Cayman Islands, Denmark, the United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands.


Paid £12,000 by the Saudi

government-owned Neom, a new £400 billion city, to appear at an event advertising the development. Neom has been criticised by the UN for human rights violations. She wrote glowingly about Saudi’s ‘innovative plans’ for the 100-mile long city in her register of interests. Lady Morrissey was approached for comment.


Former Cabinet Secretary

Paid up to £80,000 last year by Temasek, an investment fund owned by the Singapore government.


Ex-Labour Attorney-General

Paid £381,000 over four months this year by the government of Azerbaijan and £42,799 by Israel’s government since January 2022.


Ex-Tory Party chairman

Paid consultancy fees of up to £400,000 from the governments of Bahrain and Iraq, received through his consultancy firm FMA.


Former Tory Minister

Paid £10,000 in 2022 for advising the oil and gas-rich Qatari government on sustainability, through his consultancy company, Sancroft. During that time, Deben (better known as John Selwyn Gummer) advised the British Government as the UK’s climate change committee chairman and has accused Ministers of hypocrisy over North Sea oil and gas expansion, saying it would undermine Britain’s reputation as a climate leader.

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