Sunday Times/C4 MP sleaze probe prompts rule change

A joint investigation by the Sunday Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches programme into MPs offering influence for cash has prompted cross-party condemnation and a Government pledge on new lobbying guidelines.

The Sunday Times revealed yesterday that former trade and transport secretary Stephen Byers had said he was “like a sort of cab for hire” for up to £5,000 a day. Former health secretary Patricia Hewitt reportedly said that she had helped obtain a key seat on a government advisory group for a paying client.

Former defence secretary Geoff Hoon revealed that he was looking to use his knowledge and contacts to do something “that frankly makes money” and Labour MP Margaret Moran said that she could call a “girls’ gang” of MPs on behalf of clients.

The politicans were recorded by an undercover journalist posing as a company executive looking to hire MPs for lobbying work for a made-up US company.

Journalists approached 13 Labour MPs and seven Conservatives.

Of 20 politicians contacted by journalists, 15 agreed to meet and 10 were invited in for interviews – nine of those being secretly filmed, of which six feature in the documentary. The others were Baroness Sally Morgan and Tory MP Sir John Butterfill.

Labour has brought forward a promise to enforce a compulsory register of lobbying which it said had been planned for the election manifesto.

Tory leader David Cameron said: “First of all the House of Commons needs to conduct a thorough investigation into these (former) Labour ministers. But also the Prime Minister would want to get to the bottom of the accusations being made about his Government.”

All of the MPs filmed denied any wrongdoing and insisted they had breached no rules.

Politicians for Hire is broadcast on Channel 4 tonight at 8pm.

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