Two former British Foreign Secretaries have been accused of offering cash for access, in a sting by Channel4 and the Daily Telegraph. Labour’s Jack Straw and the Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind were secretly filmed by journalists pretending to represent a wealth Chinese family.
The pair have now both referred themselves to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, amidst allegations they broke House of Commons rules. But both have taken to the media today to protest their innocence.
Straw says he made it clear he would do no work until he ceased to be an MP in May, although he did predict he would get a seat in the House of Lords “were rules are different”. Rifkind claimed to have only working 5 percent of his time as a local MP when he was Foreign Secretary and therefore has enough spare time to do both jobs now. He also told Daily Politics he had made it clear that he would never disclose anything that was not already in the public domain.
Both have now been suspended from their political parties, pending the outcome of the investigation. Straw asked for £5000 a day, and said he was “aware of the impact” the use of his name would have in communications with officials at the Foreign Office. He also claimed to have employed “charm and menace” to convince the Ukrainian prime minister to change laws on behalf of the same firm.
Rifkind described himself as “self-employed” and unable to live on his £65,000 MPs salary.
Channel 4 Despatches goes out tonight and is the latest in a series of sting on politicians by journalists posing as lobbyists. Both men were duped into believing they were taking to the representatives of a wealthy Hong Kong Chinese family who wanted to invest in the UK.
They offered to write to ministers and officials on their behalf without revealing who their client was. It is unclear whether they pledged to do anything against the rules however Sir Alistair Graham, the former chairman of the Westminster standards watchdog, described their actions as “shocking”.