London: Former British foreign secretaries Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind on Monday sought to defend themselves after they fell for a sting laid by journalists and were caught on tape offering their services to private firms in return for cash.
While Jack Straw, a top Labour party leader, boasted how he worked "under the radar" and used his clout to alter EU rules on behalf of a firm which paid him £60,000 a year; Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a Conservative MP, cribbed that it was 'quite unrealistic' to expect backbenchers with professional backgrounds to 'simply accept a salary of £60,000'.
Both the leaders also revealed their 'rates', with Straw pegging it at £5,000 a day, and Malcolm said he cost "somewhere in the region of £5,000 to £8,000" per day.
In a comment that sounded ridiculous, Malcolm said, "You will be surprised. I have lots of free time".
Both MPs have referred themselves to Parliament's commissioner for standards and an investigation into the matter could take months.
While Jack Straw has been suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party at his own request, Sir Malcolm, who is the chairman of the parliamentary committee supervising the work of MI5 and MI6, is not facing any suspension.
The sensational sting was carried out by the reporters for the Daily Telegraph and Channel 4's Dispatche, who posed as staff of a fake Chinese firm said the BBC.
Embroiled in the 'cash for access' scam, the MPs now seek to defend themselves.
Speaking in an interview to the BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Straw said how he felt 'mortified' that he fell for a trap laid by very 'skilful' journalists and also admitted that his words in the recording sounded 'embarrassing'.
He however sought to defend himself saying he had strictly followed the rules.
“I have never, ever, ever misused information or contacts that I have made as a minister,” said Straw.
"I have acted with complete probity and integrity throughout my parliamentary career."
Straw added that after today's sting, the rules on MPs having second jobs would be reviewed.
It can be noted that it was Jck Straw who had in 2010 condemned the acts of former Labour Cabinet ministers Geoff Hoon, Patricia Hewitt and Stephen Byers after they were trapped in a similar sting.
Straw had then scathed the embroiled ministers, accusing them of pushing the Parliament into disrepute 'because it appears that former Cabinet ministers are more interested in making money than in properly representing their constituents'.
Sir Malcolm, meanwhile, sought to justify his remarks saying it was “perfectly acceptable for MPs to have outside interests”.
He added that top professionals would stop entering the Parliament if MPs were banned from having second jobs.
Speaking to the BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he also vented his frustration over the allegations, saying, “I’m going to be hugely irritated and angry because I’ve got nothing to be embarrassed about”.
He refuted the scandal claims as 'unfounded', saying that he would “fight them with all my strength”.