Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind in latest 'cash for access' scandal
Jack Straw reveals he operated 'under the radar' to use his influence to change EU rules, while Sir Malcolm Rifkind boasts about his 'useful' access to diplomats
Mr Straw also used his Commons office to conduct meetings about possible consultancy work — a potential breach of rules. And he suggested that his Commons researcher had worked on his private business matters, raising further questions.
Sir Malcolm, who oversees Britain’s intelligence agencies on behalf of Parliament, said he could arrange “useful access” to every British ambassador in the world because of his status.
He has told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that it was “quite unrealistic” to think MPs could live on “simply £60,000” a year without looking for extra income.
The senior Conservative told undercover reporters from this newspaper and Channel 4’s Dispatches, to be broadcast on Monday night, that he would submit questions to ministers on behalf of a paying client, without revealing their identity.
Sir Malcolm also described himself as “self-employed” and had to “earn my income” — despite being paid £67,000 by the taxpayer for his work as an MP. The disclosure that two of Britain’s most senior politicians are embroiled in a new “cash for access” scandal highlights Parliament’s failure to address the issue which has plagued British politics for a generation.
He expressed concern that Sir Malcolm was “so willing to sell himself” with his “enormous range of contact lists”. He added that it was against the rules for Mr Straw to attempt to negotiate a business contract in his Commons office.
They were chosen because of concerns about their business activities.
Six of the 12 did not respond and one said his contacts were not “for sale”.
Mr Straw and Sir Malcolm agreed to enter discussions with the fictitious Chinese company looking to expand its business interests in Europe.
Last year Sir Malcolm registered earnings of £69,610 — more than £1,600 an hour — from his work outside of Parliament, while Mr Straw earned £112,777 from his outside business activities.
Analysis by this newspaper of MPs' overall earnings showed they made more than £7.4 million from outside work in the past year. The Chinese “company” wanted to form an advisory board. Undercover reporters met Sir Malcolm at the fictional firm’s Mayfair office in January. Sir Malcolm, who served as foreign secretary under Sir John Major, described the access he could offer.
He said he could meet “any ambassador that I wish to see” in London. “They’ll all see me personally”, he added.
“That provides access in a way that is, is useful”.
In a second meeting, Sir Malcolm suggested that he would be willing to write to ministers on behalf of the company without declaring the name of the firm.
Sir Malcolm said he was "self-employed"
Sir Malcolm’s offer to write to ministers without “nam[ing] who was asking” is likely to cause concern because of the rules governing interests when communicating with ministers or officials.
Sir Alistair said it would be a “clear breach of the code of conduct if he’s not explaining that he’s acting as a consultant on behalf of a particular company when he’s seeking information”.
During a discussion about the former minister’s availability, he disclosed that he had a lot of “free time”.
The undercover reporters met Mr Straw at his office in the House of Commons.
The MP explained how he had helped ED&F Man, a commodities company with a sugar refinery in Ukraine, change an EU regulation by meeting officials in Brussels.
He also claimed that he had overturned a law in Ukraine that would have hindered the commodities firm operating a factory they had recently refurbished.
The law made their activities “completely uneconomic” and so Mr Straw took company representatives to see Mykola Azarov, the then Ukrainian prime minister, in September 2011.
“It’s a combination of sort of charm and menace … I mean he [the prime minister] understood.”
On Sunday night it was reported that Mr Straw will refer himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner.
He said there was “nothing inappropriate” in him using the “knowledge and experience” he has acquired as an MP after he stands down. The spokesman added that Mr Straw “has always been full and frank in any work carried out on behalf of ED&F Man” and had declared his role with the firm to Mr Azarov and the European Commission.
The spokesman said Mr Straw’s use of the phrase “charm and menace” would have been “colloquial and a purely conversational description of the approach he had adopted”.
Asked about Mr Straw boast that he operated “under the radar”, his spokesman said: “This was a reference to his preferred strategy of affecting a change to regulations by discussion and negotiation, rather than conducting a high-profile public campaign.”
The spokesman said Mr Straw used his parliamentary office to hold the meeting “to save time” because of his “busy schedule”. The spokesman added that the work carried out by the researcher for ED&F Man “is not paid by the public funds”.
Mr Straw said that when he mentioned the £5,000 fee he was giving it as an example and not as part of a negotiation.
Sir Malcolm said he believed the “firm” had sought his help as a former foreign secretary rather than as an MP. He said: “I have never undertaken, nor would I undertake, any lobbying as an MP on behalf of any private organisation from which I was receiving remuneration.”
Senior Labour MP John Mann took to Twitter and called for Sir Malcolm to step down as Chair of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security committee following the disclosures:
In a statement the Labour party said: "We have seen the disturbing allegations against Jack Straw in the Daily Telegraph.
"The Chief Whip has spoken to Jack Straw. He has agreed to refer himself to the Party Commissioner for Standards and in the meantime has agreed the best course of action is to suspend himself from the Parliamentary Labour Party."
NWN: There's these two jews.................... ! Sounds like the start of one of the late comedian Bernard Mannings jokes.