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Top British lawmakers deny wrongdoing over "cash for access" report

Two former British foreign ministers have been filmed offering their services to a fictitious Chinese company in return for thousands of pounds, reigniting a damaging 2010 "cash for access" row just months before an election.



London: Two former British foreign ministers have been filmed offering their services to a fictitious Chinese company in return for thousands of pounds, reigniting a damaging 2010 "cash for access" row just months before an election.

Malcolm Rifkind, a senior member of Prime Minister David Cameron`s Conservatives who heads a committee scrutinising security policy, and Jack Straw, Labour`s foreign minister when Britain went to war in Iraq, both denied any wrongdoing.

The allegations, made in an investigation by the Telegraph newspaper and Channel 4, echoed the 2010 scandal when three former ministers were filmed saying they could influence government policy for cash.

The Rifkind-Straw report prompted opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband to call on Cameron to ban lawmakers from paid directorship or consultancy work.

It could also further dent the public`s perception of Britain`s main political parties which has given anti-establishment rivals a boost before the May election.

In the footage, Rifkind tells the reporters he has "useful" access to any ambassador, while Straw talks about how he worked "under the radar" to use his influence to change European Union rules for another company.

Both lawmakers have referred themselves to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and there was no suggestion in the report that they did anything illegal.

Rifkind told the BBC he had not accepted anything from the company and was not at the negotiating stage, but had just gone to the meeting to hear what they had to say.

Potentially compounding a perception that some lawmakers are out of touch with the public, he also said parliamentarians needed to be able to supplement their income - which is twice the national average wage - if they are to attract the right calibre of person to the job.

"It is quite unrealistic to believe they will go through their parliamentary career being able to simply accept 60,000 pounds ($92,000)," he said.

Straw, who had already announced he was stepping down in May and who was highly critical of colleagues during the 2010 expose, is shown saying he normally charges around 5,000 pounds a day for external work such as speeches.

"I am mortified by the fact that I fell into this trap," he told the BBC, saying he had made it clear the discussions were about what he might do after the election and he had stuck to strict parliamentary rules.

From Zee News

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