THE SNP yesterday sought assurances that the two MPs caught up in “cash for access” allegations should not be elevated to the House of Lords once they leave the Commons.
Angus MacNeil, the SNP MP for the Western Isles, has written to the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition saying that the former foreign secretaries Sir Malcolm Rifkind of the Tories and Labour’s Jack Straw should not be rewarded with peerages.
Straw and Rifkind were last week embroiled in controversy when an undercover journalistic operation secretly recorded them apparently offering their services to private firms for thousands of pounds. Both denied any wrongdoing. The allegations were made in Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, in which Straw claimed he could help clients more if he was moved to the Upper House because the rules were different in the Lords.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS
MacNeil said: “I have asked David Cameron and Ed Miliband for absolute guarantees that neither of these politicians are to be considered for a peerage. Their behaviour cannot be dismissed as “silly” or an “error of judgment” as they maintained.
“It goes to the very heart of why Westminster is held in such low regard. The House of Lords is no more than a house of cronies and paymasters and it is quite clearly beyond reform. Both the Tory and Labour Party still stuff this chamber to the gunnels, and it now has over 800 members – unelected and completely unaccountable.”
MacNeil added: “To add to their number the two MPs involved in this scandal would be an affront to democracy and would diminish even more the reputation of Westminster. David Cameron and Ed Miliband have it within their power and influence to ensure this does not happen.”
Straw has been suspended from the Labour Party following the disclosure that he boasted how he operated “under the radar” to use his influence to change European Union rules on behalf of a commodity firm which pays him £60,000 a year. Rifkind has said he will not stand again as an MP after being filmed discussing potentially being hired by a private company to provide “useful access” to British ambassadors.
Last night Downing Street refused to comment on MacNeil’s letter. A Labour spokesman said: “We have made clear that Labour candidates standing at the next election will be banned from taking paid directorships or consultancies.
“This will remove any suspicion that MPs are working not for their constituents’ interests but someone else’s interests.”