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Former Prime Minister Tony Blair defends Jack Straw

Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair Credit: PA

Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair has defended Blackburn MP Jack Straw, saying:

"I have known Jack for over 30 years. He is a byword for being a hard-working constituency MP and parliamentarian.

I can think of no-one who has more dedicated himself to public service.

I am really sorry he has been caught up in a sting operation about a job offer after he retires from Parliament.

I hope that the commissioner will clear his name as soon as possible."

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Straw: Not how I expected to spend final weeks as MP

Jack Straw said his involvement in a cash-for-access row was "not how I expected to spend my last weeks in Parliament".

The former Foreign Secretary, who will stand down as MP for Blackburn after the general election, reiterated that he had "done nothing wrong".

Straw was secretly filmed by the Daily Telegraph and Channel 4's Dispatches progamme, who have accused him of offering to use his position in return for cash.

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Jack Straw 'mortified' after cash-for-access claims

Straw said the discussions filmed by Channel 4 related to potential work after his impending retirement as an MP. Credit: Channel 4 Dispatches/Telegraph

Jack Straw has said he is "mortified by the way I fell into this trap" after being filmed by investigative reporters posing as staff of a Chinese company, but insisted he had not acted improperly.

The former Labour home and foreign secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he had been "absolutely scrupulous" in regards to the rules on outside interests and was discussing potential work after he retires as an MP.

Asked if he should have asked that the conversation be delayed until after his parliamentary role had ended, Straw admitted: "I should have done [...] it would have saved a fantastic amount of trouble."

He also said he believed that current rules dictating MPs' income outside of their parliamentary roles were "satisfactory", but accepted that others - including his own party leader Ed Miliband - disagreed.

After the Channel 4 Dispatches film showed Straw saying he had operated "under the radar", the Blackburn MP said he meant that he raised matters politely, rather than running a public or confrontational campaign.

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Ex-foreign secretaries secretly filmed by reporters

Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw have been secretly filmed by reporters working for the Daily Telegraph and Channel 4's Dispatches apparently offering to use their positions in exchange for cash. Both strongly deny any wrongdoing.

Sir Malcolm has referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards but said claims he was 'willing to act as an MP for hire' were untrue.

Mr Straw issued a statement insisting that nothing he said in the meetings was 'improper'.

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Sir Malcolm referred to Commissioner for Standards

Sir Malcolm Rifkind has referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. Credit: Andreas Gebert/DPA/Press Association Images

A Downing Street source said Sir Malcolm Rifkind "has referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards" over claims that he was secretly filmed offering to use his position of influence in exchange for cash. He has strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Sir Malcolm, who chairs the parliamentary committee which oversees Britain's intelligence agencies, was said to have claimed that he could arrange "useful access" to every British ambassador in the world because of his status.

Sir Malcolm was also alleged to have suggested that he would be willing to write to ministers on behalf of the company without declaring the name of the firm.

During the meetings, Sir Malcolm is said to have described himself as being "self-employed", saying "nobody pays me a salary". He is said to have discussed his usual fee for his services as being "somewhere in the region of £5,000 to £8,000" for a half a day's work.

In response to the allegation Sir Malcolm told the programme: "I have never undertaken nor would undertake any lobbying as an MP on behalf of any private organisation for which I was receiving remuneration. You suggest that I showed myself as 'willing to act as an MP for hire'. That is untrue.

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WATCH: Blackburn 'ghost' film shared by thousands

A video of a mysterious ‘ghost’ allegedly captured on a road going out of Blackburn is causing an internet sensation. Two men filmed the alleged spectre from inside their car, and can be heard talking about the ghoulish figure as it approaches.

Filmed on a country road leading towards Belmont, the figure dressed in white comes towards the car before disappearing into bushes at the side of the road.

The frightened passenger can be heard screaming in Arabic. He shouts: “Move the car backwards. Faster! Faster!” The video has been shared hundreds of thousands of times online. Most people say they don't believe it is actually a ghost they've enjoyed watching the terrified men being chased by the prankster.

Spooky image of the Blackburn ghost Credit: Youtube

Coroner says baby girl's death from 'pitbull type' dog mauling is worst case he has seen

A coroner says the death of an 11 month old girl who was mauled to death by a dog was the most horrendous case he has ever had to deal with.

An inquest into the of Ava-Jayne Corless in Blackburn has concluded she was killed by a 'pitbull-type' animal.

The little girl was found dead at a house in the town in February. Her mother had fallen asleep with no idea her boyfriend's dog had gone upstairs to the bedroom.

Rob Smith reports.

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