Senior Conservative MP, Sir Malcolm Rifkind has resigned as chairman of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) over his alleged involvement in the latest “cash for access” scandal. He also said that he will not be seeking re-election as an MP at the general election
Senior Tories were reportedly furious at the impact this will have on the party’s image just weeks before the election.
There was also irritation at a series of interviews Sir Malcolm gave yesterday where he claimed MPs from ‘professional backgrounds’ could not be expected to live on the £67,000 salary from the Commons.’
Rifkind and Labour MP Jack Straw were filmed offering their services to a fake Chinese company for up to £5,000 a day in an undercover investigation by the Daily Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches.
RT reports: Speaking on BBC’s Newsnight on Monday, a former chair of the Committee, Kim Howells, called for Rifkind’s resignation saying the body’s reputation must not be “dragged down.”
In a statement, he said he would remain on the Committee, but would “step down from the Chairship.”
Jack Straw and Sir Malcom Rifkind were duped by reporters from the Daily Telegraph and Channel 4 who posed as staff for a Chinese firm, looking to gain access to politicians and senior establishment figures.
Both men have now reported themselves to the Parliamentary Standards Committee, with Straw saying he had fallen into a “very clever trap” and Rifkind acknowledging his comments had been “silly.”
The men were caught on camera offering access to high-profile figures in exchange for cash.
Straw was reportedly heard to say he worked “under the radar” to try and influence EU rules on behalf of a firm which paid him £60,000 per year, while Rifkind said he could gain “useful access” to British ambassadors across the globe.
Straw was also filmed saying: “So normally, if I’m doing a speech or something, it’s £5,000 a day, that’s what I charge.”
Rifkind, the Conservative MP for Kensington, claimed to be self-employed, despite earning an MP’s salary.
“I am self-employed – so nobody pays me a salary. I have to earn my income,” he said, adding that his usual fee for half a day’s work was “somewhere in the region of £5,000 to £8,000.”
Rifkind faced pressure from Howells, after he said the work of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which oversees the roles of MI5 and MI6, was “too important” for Rifkind to jeopardize.
He warned that its reputation “isn’t being improved when it looks as if the chair of the committee is the victim of a sting operation.”
“If the intelligence and security services are not properly overseen and accountable to parliament and the people, then all hell can break loose,” he added.
In a statement announced on Tuesday morning, Rifkind announced his resignation from the role of chairman, saying he “did not want the work of the Committee … to be in any way distracted or affected by controversy as to my personal position.”
Rifkind has insisted that the allegations are “unfounded” and told the BBC he had “nothing to be embarrassed about.” He claimed the conversation caught on film was a “preliminary” discussion and he had not accepted any offer from the firm.
Straw suspended himself from the Parliamentary Labour Party, which said it was aware of the “disturbing allegations” made against him.
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