A UK lobbying scandal

The Herald reports:

Two former British Foreign Secretaries are exposed for their involvement in a new “cash for access” scandal.

Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind offered to use their positions as politicians on behalf of a fictitious Chinese company in return for payments of at least 5000 ($10,231) a day.

Straw, one of Labour’s most senior figures, boasted he operated “under the radar” to use his influence to change European Union rules on behalf of a commodity firm paying him 60,000 a year. He has been suspended from Labour following the disclosures, described by the party as “disturbing”.

Straw claimed to have used “charm and menace” to convince the Ukrainian Prime Minister to change laws on behalf of the same firm. Straw also used his Commons office to conduct meetings about possible consultancy work – a potential breach of rules. And he suggested his Commons researcher had worked on his private business matters, raising further questions.

Rifkind, who oversees Britain’s intelligence agencies on behalf of Parliament, said he could arrange “useful access” to every British ambassador in the world because of his status.

The senior Conservative told undercover reporters from the Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches, to be broadcast today, he would submit questions to ministers on behalf of a paying client, without revealing their identity.

Rifkind also described himself as “self-employed” and had to “earn my income” – despite being paid 67,000 by the taxpayer for his work as an MP. The disclosure that two of Britain’s most senior politicians are embroiled in a new “cash for access” scandal highlights Parliament’s failure to address the issue which has plagued British politics for a generation.

MPs should not accept payment for any sort of lobbying or representation. If the 67,000 pounds a year is not adequate income, then they should leave Parliament and become full time lobbyists. But you can’t and shouldn’t do both.

One problem the UK has is that they have so many MPs, there is not enough meaningful work for all of them to do. Those who have previously been Ministers and are unlikely to be Ministers again often disengage from parliamentary work. One solution is reducing the number of MPs. The Conservatives tried to do this, but were blocked by Labour and the Lib Dems.

A rule of thumb for the ideal size of a lower house is the cube root of the population. This suggests the UK needs 400 MPs, not 650.

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