POLITICS
24/02/2015 05:33 GMT | Updated 24/02/2015 06:59 GMT

Malcolm Rifkind To Quit As MP After Cash For Access Sting

Former Conservative foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind is stepping down as an MP after May, as well as chair of Parliament's intelligence and security committee, after being caught in a cash for access undercover sting.

The Tory veteran said in a statement that he has told colleagues on the committee, which is charged with overseeeing the work of Britain's security services, that he will remain a member.

"I do not want the work of the Committee and the publication of the Report to be, in any way, distracted or affected by controversy as to my personal position. I have concluded, therefore, that it is better that this important work should be presided over by a new Chairman," he said.

The backbencher also indicated he was standing down as MP for Kensington, a safe Tory seat won by Rifkind with a majority of 8,616 in 2010, in news that will likely trigger a mad dash by aspiring parliamentary candidates to succeed him.

"I had intended to seek one further term as MP for Kensington, before retiring from the House of Commons. I have concluded that to end the uncertainty it would be preferable, instead, to step down at the end of this Parliament. This is entirely my personal decision," he said in a statement.

This comes after the Conservative party suspended the whip from Sir Malcolm after an investigation by the Daily Telegraph and Channel 4 Dispatches suggested that he, and senior Labour MP Jack Straw, were prepared to use their positions and contacts to benefit a Chinese company in return for payments of thousands of pounds.

In today's statement, Sir Malcolm said he found the allegations "contemptible", adding: "Although I will retire from Parliament I shall continue my public and political life and am much looking forward to doing so over the years to come.”

Malcolm Rifkind talks to undercover reporters

However, speaking to undercover reporters, Sir Malcolm was filmed saying he was “self-employed”, despite getting paid £67,060 a year, and that they would be “surprised how much free time" he had. Despite this, he told reporters "nobody pays me a salary" and "I can do what I like". As chair of the parliamentary committee which oversees Britain's intelligence agencies, his salary rises to £81,936 a year.

The Tories also indicated that they would convene a disciplinary committee to investigate the allegations. However, Sir Malcolm struggled to help himself in a series of interviews.

Speaking on the BBC's Daily Politics, he said: "I want to have a standard of living that my professional background would normally entitle me to have".

The senior backbencher used an earlier interview on Monday morning to declare it was "simply unrealistic" to believe MPs can survive on "simply £60,000" a year - over twice the average national wage - without looking for extra income.

Sir Malcolm was reported to have claimed that he could arrange "useful access" to every British ambassador in the world because of his status.

The backbencher told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that it was “misleading” and “silly” to tell undercover reporters that he was “self-employed” and they would be “surprised how much free time I have”.

The MP insisted the "very serious allegations" were "unfounded" and he would be "hugely irritated and angry" when he watched the Channel 4 show about his meetings with fake lobbyists.

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Jack Straw, who is standing down at the election, said he had agreed to suspend himself from the parliamentary Labour Party and refer himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards despite insisting he has done nothing wrong "because of the way this appears".