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     Labour suspends cash-for-influence MPs  <<back  next>>

Three former cabinet ministers have been suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party over claims they were prepared to influence policy for cash.

Stephen Byers, Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt were all suspended from the party following the broadcast of an edition of Channel 4's Dispatches programme, which showed all three offering their services to a fake lobbying firm.

Former transport secretary Stephen Byers was secretly filmed offering his political knowledge and contacts like "a cab for hire".

The undercover reporter from the Sunday Times also filmed Labour MP Margaret Moran, Tory MP John Butterfill and Labour peer Baroness Morgan of Huyton.

Speaking on the Today programme this morning, Jack Straw said the Labour party was furious with the behaviour of their colleagues.

"It's my view certainly, having seen what I have seen, that their behaviour, prima facie, does indeed bring the Parliamentary Labour Party, as well as Parliament, into disrepute, because it appears that former Cabinet ministers are more interested in making money than they are in properly representing their constituents," he said.

"That's why there is such anger in the Parliamentary Labour Party, as well as I may say incredulity, about their stupidity in allowing themselves to be suckered in a sting like this."

And the justice secretary rejected the suggestion that the behaviour had anything to do with the idea that Byers, Hoon and Hewitt were from the "Blairite" wing of the party.

"I may tell you, I was around the House of Commons last night. The anger, as well as the incredulity, from former close allies of Tony Blair about the alleged behaviour of these three former colleagues is as strong if not stronger than that of people who were in the past on a different wing of the party," he said.

"I was talking last night to a close friend of mine, who was and is extremely close to Mr Blair, and I can tell you their anger is incendiary."

And appearing on BBC's Newsnight programme yesterday evening, Lord Mandelson said he had "zero" contact with Byers on the issue of food labelling, as had been suggested by the former transport secretary.

"What is so ghastly about this is that somebody like Stephen Byers feels it necessary to make completely untrue, unfounded boasts to these people in order to get himself future business," he said.

"It is extremely disappointing and it is very sad and rather grubby."

23 March 2010

 Last updated: 23/03/2010 10:47:00

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