24 Feb 2015

Senior British MPs suspended over 'cash for access'

6:37 am on 24 February 2015

Two former British foreign ministers have been suspended from their parliamentary parties after undercover reporters filmed them offering their services to a fictitious Chinese company for cash.

In the footage, Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind tells the reporters he has "useful access" to every British ambassador in the world.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw deny wrongdoing.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw deny wrongdoing. Photo: AFP

Labour's Jack Straw talks of working "under the radar" to use his influence to change European Union rules.

Both have referred themselves to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards following the allegations, made in an investigation by the Telegraph newspaper and Channel 4 television.

There was no suggestion the pair had done anything illegal, and both deny that they breached parliamentary rules.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind told the BBC he had met the company to hear what they had to say but was not negotiating and not accepted anything from them.

He also said parliamentarians must be able to supplement their income - already twice the average national wage - 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," he said.

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

He said the recorded discussions were about what he might do when he leaves parliament in May, a decision he announced more than a year ago.

- Reuters