Senior UK lawmakers deny wrongdoing over “cash for access” report

Two former British foreign ministers deny wrongdoing after undercover reporters film them offering their services to a fictitious Chinese company.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM CHANNEL 4 DISPATCHES AND THE TELEGRAPH) – 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.

Straw is also shown saying he normally charges around 5,000 pounds a day for external work such as speeches.

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

“These are completely unfounded allegations and I’m going to fight them all the way,” Rifkind said. I wasn’t embarrassed by them. I was annoyed, I was very angry because when your reputation is being attacked that’s something you hold dear to and I’ve been in public life for a long time; I know what is permitted, what is proper and that’s what I stick to.

“I am really most angry at the suggestion there is something improper about a member of parliament being willing to consider serving on an advisory board of a company that says it is proposing major investment in the United Kingdom. Many, many people have served on such advisory boards from all walks of life including parliament for many, many years and to produce massive headlines suggesting somehow for myself to consider doing that is improper is not only foolish and silly, it’s positively insulting,” he added.

Rifkind said he hadn’t accepted anything from the company and wasn’t at the negotiating stage, but had just gone to the meeting to hear what they had to say.

The BBC said Straw, who had already announced he was stepping down at an election in May, also said he had done nothing “improper” and that he had made it clear to the company the discussions were about what he might do when he was no longer an elected member of parliament.