"This House has often discussed the question of corruption in other countries; perhaps the time has come to recognise that it is also happening here and something needs to be done - and speedily," Chairman of the Caparo Group Lord Paul said in the House of Lords while participating in a debate last evening on Lord Justice Leveson's report on the culture, practices and ethics of the press.
He noted that one of the revelations in the report is the extent of corruption involving the media, especially the "cosy relationship between some of the media establishment and our politicians. The level of corruption in Britain is a topic now being openly discussed here and abroad."
Quoting recent comments by Transparency International, one of the UK's leading anti-corruption organisations, on the publication of its 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index last month where the UK ranked 17th in the world, Lord Paul said, "despite the passing of the Bribery Act, and measures to improve transparency in government, the perception of experts is that the UK continues to be more vulnerable to corruption than the political establishment is willing to admit.
"The steady stream of political scandals has exposed a worrying complacency at the heart of UK politics. Until the Government acts with urgency to put a cap on party funding and introduce tougher regulation of lobbying and the revolving door, the UK will not be able to rise higher in global anti-corruption league tables."
He noted that corruption extended well beyond simple monetary gain to the abuse of power.
"Leveson has revealed that our politicians and government have had what is at best an unhealthy close relationship with the press over many years, and at worst something more sinister. Our leaders must recognize that others look to them as an example.
"Their behaviour must be, and must be seen to be, unimpeachable at all times. They set the standard for the nation to follow. There can be no deals, at any level, between the media and our politicians," he said.
At the outset, Lord Paul, who is also the Chancellor of
two British Universities - Wolverhampton and Westminster, said that 2012 was surely an 'Annus Horribilis' for standards in public life in Britain.
"In the wake of the financial crisis, many of our institutional pillars, which are respected across the world, saw their probity brought into question with scandal after scandal - the press, the police, the BBC and our politicians. It is sad to see the deterioration of values that historically set the standard to which others aspired.
The UK's global reputation is suffering as a consequence," he said.
"With power goes responsibility. Yet again the media have failed fully to accept the responsibility. My Lords, it is now time for that power to be curbed, and I urge the Government to endorse fully the recommendations of Lord Leveson's report, especially when it was commissioned with all party support."
Lord Paul said, "globally, the newspaper industry is losing its market share to social media. As circulation numbers fall, advertising revenues fall. Increased pressure to retain readership, causes ever more sensational reporting, further decline in ethical standards.
"We have already seen in the banking sector how the pressure to produce extra profits and bonuses led to a collapse in business standards and the resulting financial crisis from which we all suffer and are likely to suffer for a long time. It is sad to see that the newspaper industry is going the same way.
"There is no point in discussing self regulation because we know it has failed in banking, it has failed in the media, and it has failed in a lot of other services. At the moment it is difficult to find an area where it has succeeded."
London: Leading NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul has said that the time has come to recognise that corruption is also happening in Britain and something needs to be done - and speedily.
First Published: Saturday, January 12, 2013, 15:31