Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw 'did not breach rules' over 'cash-for-access' allegations

Former MPs were caught in sting carried out by Channel 4 and the Telegraph

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Indy Politics

The parliamentary standards watchdog has found "there was no breach of the rules on paid lobbying" by former foreign secretaries Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw after an investigation into cash-for-access allegations.

Both denied wrongdoing and referred themselves to the parliamentary standards commissioner following a sting by undercover reporters.

Kathryn Hudson, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, found that neither was in breach of the code of conduct or the rules of the House "other than in Mr Straw's case - by a minor misuse of parliamentary resources".

Sir Malcolm, who stepped aside as chair of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee and stood down at the election following the claims, said the months after the sting had been a "painful period" for him and his family.

Sir Malcolm stepped aside as chair of the parliamentary Intelligence committee (Getty)

He said: "I thank the Standards Commissioner and the Standards Committee for their very full examination of the allegations by Channel 4 Dispatches and the Daily Telegraph, and their conclusion that these allegations had no substance and were unjustified."

He added: "Channel 4 Dispatches and the Daily Telegraph must recognise the judgment of the Standards Commissioner and the Standards Committee that they were responsible for 'distortion' and for misleading the public in making these allegations."

Mr Straw said he was 'mortified' following the sting (Getty)

Mr Straw said: "I am naturally delighted that the independent Commons' standards commissioner has cleared me of all wrongdoing."

Mr Straw said he regretted "ever having fallen into the trap" and had made serious efforts to check on the bogus company before the meeting "but these checks were not enough to expose what was a deliberate and meticulously planned deception".

He added: "At the time of this sting I said that I felt mortified that I had fallen into this trap but that I had not acted improperly in the meetings, nor more widely in respect of my Parliamentary duties and the rules of the House.

"I have been fully vindicated in this. The commissioner's report gives the full context of what happened, which was not available to the public at the time.

"It has been very sad that the final chapter of my long period in the Commons has been overshadowed in this way.

"The whole episode has taken a huge toll on my family, my friends, and on me, but the commissioner's conclusions and the committee's findings will now enable me to get on with my life."

The former MPs were secretly filmed by reporters claiming to represent a Hong Kong-based communications agency called PMR which was seeking to hire senior British politicians to join its advisory board.

Sir Malcolm was said to have claimed that he could arrange "useful access" to every British ambassador in the world because of his status, while Mr Straw boasted of operating "under the radar" to use his influence to change European Union rules on behalf of a commodity firm which paid him £60,000 a year.

In a report published by the Commons Standards Committee, MPs said Sir Malcolm and Mr Straw had been "scrupulous in observing the requirements relating to registration of interests".

The commissioner was critical of the sting carried out by Channel 4's Dispatches and the Telegraph.

She wrote: "If in their coverage of this story, the reporters for Dispatches and the Daily Telegraph had accurately reported what was said by the two members in their interviews, and measured their words against the rules of the House, it would have been possible to avoid the damage that has been done to the lives of two individuals and those around them, and to the reputation of the House."