Sir Malcolm Rifkind interviewed and helped appoint the woman who cleared him of wrongdoing over ‘cash-for-access’ scandal
Rifkind was part of a panel which recommended Kathryn Hudson
Former foreign secretary interviewed and helped appoint her to £108,000-a-year position of Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards
She later cleared him of wrongdoing over a cash-for-access scandal
By TAMARA COHEN FOR DAILY MAIL
19 September 2015
Sir Malcolm Rifkind interviewed and helped to appoint the woman who cleared him of wrongdoing over a cash-for-access scandal, it emerged yesterday.
The former foreign secretary was part of a five-person panel which recommended Kathryn Hudson to the £108,000-a-year position of Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
Miss Hudson’s report found there was ‘no breach of the rules on paid lobbying’ by Sir Malcolm and Jack Straw, who were accused earlier this year of telling undercover reporters they would be prepared to use their positions to benefit a private firm.
Her verdict, which criticised Channel 4’s Dispatches and The Daily Telegraph for their sting, paves the way for the pair to be given seats in the Lords.
But in a new twist, it has emerged that Sir Malcolm and his colleagues on the panel ‘recommended’ Miss Hudson to the House of Commons Commission, which went on to appoint her to the watchdog role.
Two members of the Committee on Standards, which accepted Miss Hudson’s ruling, told the Telegraph that they were not made aware of her link to the former Conservative MP – and there is no mention of it in her report.
MPs said yesterday that the circumstances could present a ‘conflict of interest’.
The two former foreign secretaries are facing accusations that they were prepared to use their positions and contacts to benefit a private company in return for payments of thousands of pounds.
The panel is understood to have interviewed five candidates and put two names forward. Yesterday John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, said: ‘Miss Hudson needs to give an explanation as to why she did not [stand aside from the investigation] as it doesn’t look good to the public.’
Sir Malcolm told the paper he was not ‘conscious’ of having interviewed Miss Hudson until reminded of it, and said it had never been mentioned during the investigation. He added: ‘I didn’t even know if it was the same person.
‘It wasn’t relevant to the very professional meeting that we had. She didn’t mention it. And until you rang me, I hadn’t even been conscious of the fact … simply because it wasn’t relevant.’
It was also claimed last night that Miss Hudson was urged to speed up the investigation by Sir Malcolm and Mr Straw and that she told colleagues they were ‘understandably anxious that I should complete my inquiry at the earliest opportunity’.
After concerns were raised in the past about MPs being seen to mark each other’s homework, new rules mean lay members will make up half of the panel, but these will not take effect until next year.
Miss Hudson refused to comment on her links to Sir Malcolm, saying she ‘could not discuss individual cases’.
The access scandal erupted in February when undercover reporters claiming to represent a Hong Kong-based firm called PMR asked the two politicians to join its advisory board.
Sir Malcolm claimed he could arrange ‘useful access’ to every British ambassador in the world, while Mr Straw claimed he had operated ‘under the radar’ to change EU rules on behalf of a commodities firm which paid him £60,000 a year.
The report found neither MP had been asked to do any lobbying by the fake firm and neither had offered to do so.
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