Tuesday 26 September 2017

Rifkind to resign as MP in 'money for access' sting furore

Malcolm Rifkind leaves the Intelligence and Security Committee in central London after announcing he would quit parliament and resign as head of a powerful security committee after becoming embroiled in a cash-for-access scandal (REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth)
Malcolm Rifkind leaves the Intelligence and Security Committee in central London after announcing he would quit parliament and resign as head of a powerful security committee after becoming embroiled in a cash-for-access scandal (REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth)
Mr Rifkind and his wife Edith in 1986

Joe Churcher

Former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind is to quit as an MP at the general election amid fresh pressure over cash-for-access allegations following an undercover sting.

The Tory grandee said he had also stepped aside as chair of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.

The veteran politician said the allegations against him were "contemptible" but that it was better for the party and his Kensington constituency if he did not seek to stand in 2015.

He yesterday had the party whip suspended pending an internal investigation as to whether he should remain the candidate for May's poll.

"I had intended to seek one further term as MP for Kensington, before retiring from the House of Commons," he said in a statement.

"I have concluded that to end the uncertainty it would be preferable, instead, to step down at the end of this parliament.

"This is entirely my personal decision. I have had no such requests from my constituency association but I believe that it is the right and proper action to take.

"As regards the allegations of Channel 4 and the 'Daily Telegraph', I find them contemptible and will not comment further at this time.

"Although I will retire from parliament, I shall continue my public and political life and am much looking forward to doing so over the years to come."

Mr Rifkind dismissed suggestions that he had been pushed by No 10.

He said: "Downing Street don't have that power. The intelligence committee acts under an Act of Parliament. The prime minister has no power to dismiss members of the committee.

"The committee make their own decisions. I reflected on the decision last night. I could see that the issue was obviously an issue which was arousing public interest."

British prime minister David Cameron was not believed to have spoken to Mr Rifkind in the last 24 hours.

He added: "I attach a great deal of importance to the work of the committee. It is quite obvious, whether fairly or unfairly, that this had become an issue and therefore it's sensible."

Pressure

Mr Rifkind said he was standing down as an MP in Kensington because "there is very major uncertainty" around his position.

He first entered parliament in 1974 and served for more than a decade in the cabinets of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, and has dismissed allegations of wrongdoing as "unfounded" and vowed to fight them "with all my strength".

His resignation comes after he suggested - in comments to undercover reporters from Channel 4's Dispatches and the 'Daily Telegraph' - that he could arrange "useful access" to every British ambassador in the world because of his status.

Jack Straw of Labour has also denied wrongdoing after the 'Telegraph' claimed he was taking a job with a firm that won a £75m government contract after he privately lobbied a minister on its behalf.

Both politicians have denied breaking Commons rules.

Labour leader Ed Miliband seized on the row to call on Mr Cameron to join him in banning MPs from taking directorships and consultancies.

Irish Independent

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