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Ex-Cabinet ministers embroiled in new cash for influence scandal

Picture 26 After a Parliament mired by the MPs' Expenses scandal and allegations of cash for honours, the Sunday Times is tomorrow running a story which will be less than comfortable reading for several former Cabinet ministers who are leaving the Commons at the impending election.

The Insight team at the paper - working in conjunction with Channel 4's Dispatches programme - had an undercover reporter pose as a company executive seeking to hire MPs for lobbying work. It would seem that a number appear to have boasted about the influence and access they could give clients in return for money.

The victims include:

  • Stephen Byers - "Was secretly recorded offering himself “like a sort of cab for hire” for up £5,000 a day. He also suggested bringing Tony Blair to meet clients... He claimed to have struck a secret deal with Lord Adonis, the transport secretary, last year on behalf of National Express, which he said was seeking to jettison a loss-making East Coast rail franchise without penalties. Byers said: “We agreed with Andrew... he would be publicly very critical of National Express” as long as he agreed terms which favoured the company. The decision to terminate the franchise in July last year left a burden on the taxpayer of hundreds of millions of pounds. Byers also claimed he could use his friendship with Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, as his “trump card” to squash government plans that did not suit his clients."
  • Patricia Hewitt - "Claimed she helped to obtain a key seat on a government advisory group for a client paying her £3,000 a day."
  • Geoff Hoon - "Offered to lead delegations to ministers and told the reporter that he was looking to turn his knowledge and contacts into “something that frankly makes money”. He said he charged £3,000 a day."

Read more here. (10.15pm update - the link has stopped working; very odd... link now working again)

Jonathan Isaby