UK
18/09/2015 08:30 BST | Updated 18/09/2015 08:59 BST

Daily Telegraph Launches Scathing Attack On Commons Standard Commissioner After Rifkind/Straw Ruling

One of Britain's biggest newspapers has launched a blistering attack on the commissioner who ruled against it in an investigation over two senior peers.

The Daily Telegraph published an editorial on Friday, accusing the top Commons boss of publishing a "deeply troubling" and "shameful response" to claims against Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, telling their readers: "MPs cannot be trusted on lobbying".

The paper, along with reporters from Channel 4's 'Dispatches', launched a high-profile investigation in February, claiming to have unearthed shadowy commercial interests in Westminster.

Both Straw, former foreign secretary under Labour, and Sir Malcolm, a previous Conservative defence minster, were claimed at the time to have been caught on camera promising their influence and prestigious positions to lobby in exchange for thousands of pounds.

rifkind straw

Sir Malcolm, right, and Jack Straw, left

They were cleared this week by Parliament's Standard Commissioner, who has led a six-month inquiry into the affair.

In her ruling, Kathryn Hudson, criticised the journalists who broke the story, commenting: “The distorted coverage of the actions and words of the Members concerned has itself been the main cause of the damage…

"If in their coverage of this story, the reporters for Dispatches and the Daily Telegraph had accurately reported what was said by the two Members in their interviews, and measured their words against the rules of the House, it would have been possible to avoid the damage that has been done to the lives of two individuals."

But the Telegraph retorted with its own scathing editorial this week, saying the "sorry tale" of both ex-MPs proved "beyond doubt" that those in the Commons could not be trusted to regulate themselves over lobbying.

"Ms Hudson’s credulity towards MPs raises questions about whether she is fit to hold her post," leader writers wrote, "yet her performance is laudable in comparison with the egregious work of the Standards Committee.

"Far from accepting any error by Sir Malcolm or Mr Straw, or any flaw in the rules they so nimbly stepped around, the committee suggests that the failing here lies with the public for not properly “understanding” the role of MPs.

It continued, saying: "That is bad enough. Worse are the committee’s words on the press. It is only because of investigative journalism that the conduct of Sir Malcolm and Mr Straw became known to the voters they were supposed to serve.

"Yet the committee's report amounts to a warning to journalists not to carry out such investigations in future, promising to 'consider further the role of the press in furthering…understanding and detecting wrongdoing'."

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