Cash for Access Scandal

Cashforaccess1

Le Royaume-Uni a récemment assisté à la chute de Malcolm Rifkind. Le député conservateur et ex-ministre des Affaires étrangères a été piégé par une équipe de journalistes qui s’est fait passer pour les représentants d’une entreprise fictive.

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Over the last few days, Sir Malcolm Rifkind has been under pressure because of “cash-for-access” claims. “Cash-for-access” refers to scandals involving the clandestine receipt of money for delivering meetings with senior office-holders. Sir Malcolm Rifkind is the chairman of Intelligence and Security Committee and an MP in the UK Parliament.

Malcolm Rifkind fell prey to some journalists from the Daily Telegraph who trapped him and pretended to be the representatives of a fictional Chinese company. They offered him to join their board of directors and to do lobbying for them. He seemed to be very interested and agreed to offer his services for cash.

Even if he didn’t break any House of Commons rule, the story triggered a political storm and that’s why on February, 24th, he announced he had decided no to run another time for the House of Commons on May 7th (even if he had originally intended to).

But this scandal also revealed another one. Jack Straw, a former MP, Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary under Blair was also filmed and people were seen offering him £5,000 per day for his services. The Labour party suspended him.

CashforaccessJack Straw

These two events rekindled the controversy about the MPs’ integrity in the UK. In 2009, the Daily Telegraph had revealed how the MPs abused of their expense accounts to complete their incomes. That issue already caused a scandal in 2009. Since then, MPs have had to list their activities (without any outside activity MPs have an annual income of £67,000), which are watched closely. The MPs must declare all their incomes and detail their sources. That’s how it was known that in 2014, Rifkind won €94,000 more than his MP income. He earned the money thanks to his work for Unilever, for which he takes part in 8 meetings a year.

How can these activities be explained?

They can be explained by the fact that British MPs receive a smaller salary than many other elected officials around the world, according to data from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

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Furthermore there are no rules banning MPs from holding other sources of employment, and so, many do.

How can it be fought?

Ed Miliband wants a ban on paid directorships and consultancies, while David Cameron believes that having people with outside interests makes for a “stronger Parliament“.

Labour has argued that the move was necessary to “restore public trust” in politics following a cash-for-access scandal. But MPs reject Miliband’s call to end ‘second jobs’ for politicians. Tory MPs say Labour wants to exclude Conservatives because they are much more likely to be on company boards.

What impact will the scandal have?

This scandal happened at the worst time in the run-up to the general election for the affected parties. The parties in opposition will be seizing the chance to benefit from it. David Cameron and Ed Miliband are unlikely to attack each other over cash for access as MPs in both their parties are involved.

Manon BOUYAKOUB-MENUT & Anaïs VARAGO

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