Two former British foreign secretaries have been suspended by their parties from their parliamentary duties after being secretly filmed apparently offering their services to reporters purporting to represent a private company.
Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Labour’s Jack Straw both said they have broken no rules but referred themselves to a parliamentary watchdog, BBC News reported Tuesday.
Reporters for the Daily Telegraph and Channel 4′s Dispatches posing as representatives of a fake Chinese firm separately approached Rifkind and Straw.
Straw was recorded describing how he operated “under the radar” and had used his influence to change EU rules on behalf of a firm which paid him £60,000 (US$92,700) a year, the report said.
On the subject of payment, he is heard saying: “So normally, if I’m doing a speech or something, it’s £5,000 a day, that’s what I charge.”
Sir Malcolm is reported to have claimed he could arrange “useful access” to every British ambassador in the world.
The Conservative MP for Kensington and chairman of the intelligence and security committee was recorded saying: “I am self-employed, so nobody pays me a salary. I have to earn my income.”
He said his usual fee for half a day’s work was “somewhere in the region of £5,000 to £8,000″.
Sir Malcolm said he had “nothing to be embarrassed about”. He said the allegations were “unfounded” and he vowed to fight them “with all my strength”.
He said he had never accepted an offer from the fake firm, saying it was a “preliminary” discussion “about what they had mind”.
Sir Malcolm is paid £67,000 a year and he said telling the company he was not paid a salary was a “silly thing to say”.
“Of course, I receive a salary as a member of parliament but I was referring to my business interests, from none of which I receive a salary. I receive payment for services I provide,” he said.
About 200 MPs have business interests, he said, and everything he earns is detailed in the Register of Members’ Interests.
Sir Malcolm is due to meet the Conservative chief whip later on Monday. He said he would not stand down as security committee chairman, unless his committee colleagues wanted him to.
“One’s got nothing to do with the other,” he said. “None of the matters are remotely to do with intelligence or security.”
Straw suspended himself from the parliamentary Labor Party, and the party said it was aware of the “disturbing allegations” against him.
The Blackburn MP, who had already announced his intention to stand down in May, said he was “mortified” that he had fallen into the reporters’ “trap” but that he had said nothing “improper”.
He said the language he used had been “not necessarily wrong but could be taken out of context”.
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