Cash For Access Scandal MPs In-Line For Cosy Peerage

(Daily Mail) – THREE DISGRACED FORMER CABINET MINISTERS at the heart of the ‘cash-for-access’ scandal are in line for lavish golden goodbye payments and seats in the House of Lords, it emerged last night.

The Commons authorities yesterday admitted they were powerless to block generous resettlement grants of up to £65,000 each to Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon.

All three were caught on film offering to help private companies access Government in return for thousands of pounds a day.

And Gordon Brown refused to rule out peerages for the three who, as former Cabinet ministers, can expect a cosy berth in the Lords after the election.

The revelations caused outrage at Westminster. David Cameron said the saga had fuelled public perceptions that ‘politicians are sleazy pigs out for their own gain’.

He renewed his call for a full inquiry into the affair and promised the Tories would crack down on lobbying if they win power.

The Tory leader said anyone watching the investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme ‘could not help but be frankly disgusted by what they saw’.

Mr Byers’ said he was ‘like a cab for hire’ and boasted that he had helped National Express and Tesco gain favourable Government decisions – claims denied by ministers and the companies.

Mr Hoon said he was looking to turn his Government contacts ‘into something that, bluntly, makes money’.

Miss Hewitt said she had helped a firm she is paid by win a place on a Government taskforce investigating its area of business.

Last night it emerged that the Government had delayed publishing the annual list of ministerial interests, prompting new allegations of a cover-up.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw said the former ministers’ had brought Labour and Parliament ‘into disrepute’.

The scandal also provoked fury among grassroots Labour activists.

John Knight, a senior member of Mr Hoon’s local branch of the party, said the former defence secretary had ‘absolutely no affinity or understanding of the people’ he was supposed to represent.

Mr Knight, leader of the district council in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, said: ‘I would like to tell you I was shocked and surprised, but frankly I wasn’t.

‘If we carry on like this, this will be the slow death of the Labour Party.’

Yesterday it emerged that several other former ministers had shown initial interest in working for the fake lobbying firm set up by reporters, though they either withdrew or the meetings were cancelled.

Labour confirmed that Mr Byers, Mr Hoon and Miss Hewitt had been suspended from the Parliamentary-Labour Party, banning them from attending the group’s weekly meetings. However they will not lose the party whip.

They will also still qualify for ‘golden goodbye’ payments when they step down at the election. Mr Byers and Mr Hoon will each receive the £64,766 maximum. Miss Hewitt and MP Margaret Moran, who was also filmed offering to influence policy, will get £54,403.

Downing Street said the Prime Minister ‘completely condemns the claims made by the former ministers’ but saw no reason for an inquiry into the scandal.

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