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  1. Tom Bradby

A ban on MPs taking consultancies looks unlikely

The problem is that it is a very difficult argument to make - but there is an argument to be made for MPs to be allowed outside interests on the grounds that it attracts a slightly greater breadth of professional people into the House of Commons. MPs also say they are not paid enough. Well that really depends on who you compare them to I suppose. But the difficulty for them is really simple.

It is not like it is the world's biggest secret what MPs are paid. It's right there on the tin when you take the job. More to the point, when all of us send our MPs to the Commons, it is really clear that we want them to represent our interests.

We do not particularly want them to represent the interests of company X or company Y - for any reason. That's the reality. That's why these scandals will keep recurring until, I am afraid, MPs are banned from taking on any outside consultancies, and it doesn't look like that's about to happen.

MPs standards expert criticises Rifkind and Straw

A former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life has criticised Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw for being caught out by a sting operation at a time when public trust in MPs is "very low".

Sir John Alistair Graham said that Mr Rifkind would have had to let ministers know if he was working on behalf of a company when making enquires, and raised questions over whether Jack Straw's researcher did "private work" on his behalf in the House of Commons.

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Cameron: MPs being paid to lobby is 'not acceptable'

David Cameron has said that MPs being paid to lobby is "not acceptable" adding that it was right that Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind have referred themselves to the Parliamentary Commissioner,

Cameron: MPs being paid to lobby is 'not acceptable'. Credit: PA

Speaking in Hastings, the Prime Minister said: "...I think it's also right that in both cases, while that happens, the party whip should be suspended. That is what will happen with Sir Malcolm Rifkind as well as with Jack Straw.

"In Sir Malcolm's case, he is still a candidate at the next election, so there will be an immediate disciplinary inquiry by the Conservative Party to look at this case."

Blair: Jack Straw 'a byword for being a hard-working MP'

Former prime minister Tony Blair came to the defence of Jack Straw, who served as home secretary, foreign secretary and leader of the Commons in his governments, over the cash-for-access row.

Blair said:

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. It is typical of Jack that as soon as he was alerted of the sting against him he immediately contacted the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and asked her to investigate the case. I hope that the Commissioner will clear his name as soon as possible.

– Tony Blair

Farage: 'Very questionable' whether Rifkind keeps ISC role

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said it was "very questionable" whether Sir Malcolm Rifkind should continue in his role as Intelligence and Security Committee chairman in wake of cash-for-access claims.

"I'm not surprised he has been suspended and I would have thought it very questionable whether he can hang on to any other senior positions at all," Mr Farage said at a campaign event in Rochester, Kent.

Clegg: Cash-for-access claims 'like Groundhog Day'

Nick Clegg said the cash-for-access claims involving former foreign secretaries Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind felt like "Groundhog Day".

"This keeps coming round, " said the Deputy Prime Minister. "Whether there is individual wrongdoing or not, the cumulative effect is to deepen public scepticism about how politics operates.

Nick Clegg commented on the row at an event in south London. Credit: PA

"My own view is all political parties would be well advised to immediately after the next general election get together and have a look on a cross-party basis whether the rules need to be changed."

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Cameron declines to comment on Rifkind's ISC role

David Cameron has declined to say whether he believes Sir Malcolm Rifkind should stand down as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee over cash-for-access claims.

The PM said it was not his job to select the chairman of the ISC. Credit: PA

Rifkind has been suspended from the Parliamentary Conservative Party while a probe into the claims take place, but Cameron stressed that the ISC chairman was selected by the committee's members and not the Prime Minister.

"I can't interfere with that - it is a matter for the committee and the House of Commons," he said.

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.

Watson: Rifkind 'should not be allowed outside interests'

Labour MP Tom Watson has described Sir Malcolm Rifkind's discussion potential work with a bogus Chinese company as "very odd", and claimed the rules should be changed so that such arrangements were outlawed.

Tom Watson (left) and Malcolm Rifkind (right). Credit: Press Association

The former foreign secretary - secretly filmed in the discussions by Channel 4's Dispatches - has denied any wrongdoing, and said all his work outside that of an MP is within the rules and publicly declared.

However, in a short blog post, Watson said that members of the Intelligence and Security Committee - of which Sir Malcolm is chair - should not be allowed to have "outside interests".

"To be frank, I can’t believe ISC members are allowed outside interests," he said. "They see more sensitive information than most government ministers."

He added: "Members of the committee should be subject to the same disclosure rules as government ministers. I hope the PM will put this right before Parliament rises for the election."

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