Channel 4's Dispatches pull Brexit lobbying story hours before it was due to air

Channel 4 will be broadcasting a controversial Dispatches investigation into Brexit lobbying, a spokesperson for the channel has said.

The programme, titled Politicians For Hire: Cashing In On Brexit, was originally scheduled to be broadcast tonight.

But it was pulled from the schedule “just hours” before it was due to be aired, the Daily Mail reported today.

The Daily Telegraph reported that politician Peter Lilley, who was a Cabinet minister in John Major’s government, had said he would be reporting Channel 4 to broadcast watchdog Ofcom.

A Channel 4 spokesperson said: “This investigation raises important questions about transparency and accountability in public life. We are continuing to work on the film, which will be broadcast soon.”

Another Conservative former Cabinet minister, Andrew Mitchell, indicated yesterday that he had involved British intelligence agencies because he feared he was being targeted by foreign spies.

Mitchell, Lilley and former senior minister Andrew Lansley have all denied wrong-doing following the Dispatches investigation.

Mitchell, a former international development minister said that within minutes of arriving at the meeting in St James’s in Mayfair in October last year he “smelt a rat” that he was the “target of a sting”.

He said in an article for the Mail on Sunday that he had been approached by a woman calling herself Fei Liu who said she represented Chinese investors through a Hong Kong-based consultancy.

Mitchell said he launched his own investigation into the company and asked friends in Hong Kong to visit the address he was given.

After being told it looked “decidedly dodgy” he “contacted someone I know in what I will call ‘the British authorities’ and said I was worried I was the target of an attempted entrapment”.

He added: “They eventually came back to me and said I was right, but it was not a foreign power so they had no further interest. On December 5, I complained to the Chinese ambassador in London, Liu Xiaoming.”

Lord Lansley referred himself to Parliament’s standards watchdog.

The former Health Secretary has been undergoing treatment for cancer after being diagnosed last summer.

A spokesman for the peer said: “Lord Lansley made clear at all times that any work that he carries out has to comply with the House of Lords Code of Conduct Rules and that any contract would have to have that code written into it.

“He has always kept his outside interests separate from his Parliamentary duties and at no time did he offer any privileged access, insider information, lobbying activity, parliamentary advice or services.

“Lord Lansley has already referred himself to the Lords Commissioner for Standards over this matter and is confident that she will dismiss these allegations as groundless.

“Lord Lansley made clear at all times that any work that he carries out has to comply with the House of Lords Code of Conduct Rules and that any contract would have to have that code written into it.

“He has always kept his outside interests separate from his Parliamentary duties and at no time did he offer any privileged access, insider information, lobbying activity, parliamentary advice or services.

“Lord Lansley has already referred himself to the Lords Commissioner for Standards over this matter and is confident that she will dismiss these allegations as groundless.”

Lilley said he did “nothing improper whatsoever”, and told the Mail on Sunday: “It was a tawdry attempt at entrapment and I did nothing improper whatsoever. I thought it might be a sting from the beginning.

“They said they had a budget of £18,000 but I told them I was already on the advisory board of a Chinese company, that I was comfortably off and I did not pursue the matter.”

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