Rifkind resigns as MP & Committee Chair over ‘cash for access’ sting

Jack Straw (Reuters / Stefan Wermuth) and Malcom Rifkind (Reuters)
Sir Malcom Rifkind has stepped down as chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee and resigned as an MP following increasing pressure after he was caught on camera allegedly offering a ‘cash for access’ service to private companies.

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 on Tuesday morning, he said he would remain on the Committee, but would “step down from the Chairship" of the committee.

It was later revealed that he would resign his parliamentary seat in central London, a traditionally safe Conservative constituency.

A number of candidates have been rumoured to be lined up for the role, including ex-Olympic rower James Cracknell and Sayed Kamall, the leader of the Conservatives in the European Union.

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.

READ MORE:‘Cash for access’ sting: Ex-foreign secretaries Straw and Rifkind suspended, deny wrongdoing

Rifkind, the Conservative MP for Kensington, was filmed claiming 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.”

He further announced his resignation as an MP, saying the allegations against him were "contemptible" and that he had previously planned to seek one further term.

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

"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."

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.