Jack Straw – the former Foreign Secretary and Labour’s longest serving Cabinet Minister – has been suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party over a new ‘cash for access’ scandal. Straw was filmed by the Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches talking to a fictitious Chinese firm about future work he might do with them. Speaking of his previous work in Ukraine with a commodities firm, he said that he worked “under the radar” and used “charm and menace” to influence the then Ukranian PM. He was also recorded saying “So normally, if I’m doing a speech or something, it’s £5,000 a day, that’s what I charge”, when asked what his daily rate might be for such work.
Straw said last night that he was “mortified” that he had fallen into the trap set by reporters, but denied doing anything “improper”:
“Since I ceased to be a minister in 2010, I have taken on a number of outside activities, including writing, speaking engagements, and one consultancy – with the long-established commodity suppliers, ED&F Man (Holdings) Ltd,” he said.
“All of this has been undertaken fully in accordance with the MPs’ Code of Conduct.”
“The bogus company were told at the outset that any discussions with them were about what I might do once I left the Commons, not whilst I was still a serving MP.”
A Labour spokesman confirmed that Straw has referred himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, and would be suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party:
“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 Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and in the meantime he has agreed the best course of action is to suspend himself from the Parliamentary Labour Party.”
Former Tory Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind has been implicated in the same story – yet Rifkind (who unlike Straw is not stepping down as an MP in May) has not been suspended from the Tory Party, and plans to continue serving as Chair of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security committee. Rifkind – who like Straw denies any wrongdoing – has referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
Update: Ed Miliband has commented on the Telegraph/Channel 4 allegations surrounding Straw and Rifkind:
“These are disturbing allegations. That is why it’s right that Jack Straw has referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, and he has been suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party.
“We need a proper investigation of this, but I believe we need to go further.
“Labour candidates standing at the next election will be banned from taking paid directorships or consultancies.
“Today I’m writing to David Cameron saying he should do the same for his Members of Parliament. We’ve got to settle this issue of second jobs once and for all so we remove any suspicion that MPs are working not for their constituents’ interests but someone else’s interests.”