Disgraced Jack Straw is taking some time out from offering to take cash-for-access to chair a lecture on “integrity and public service” at Westminster Abbey. Promotional literature for the church’s “Integrity” series says Straw will address questions such as: “What does it mean for a public servant to have integrity?”Like he would know…
Readers will remember Straw was caught on camera by undercover reporters arranging a cash-for-access deal, boasting how he operates “under the radar” using a “combination of charm and menace”, naming a price of £5000-a-day. The same Jack Straw who was damned by Chilcot for his behaviour during the Iraq War, the same Jack Straw facing kidnap and torture claims over the rendition of a Libyan dissident. Who better to speak about integrity in politics?
After David Davies MP argued that we should be using dental checks to assess the age of supposed child migrants there was a predictable backlash fromt the usual suspects including posh tweeter and MP, Stella Creasy:
Liam Byrne last night confirmed to Guido that when he was Immigration Minister he had considered tooth checks in principle before deciding they were impractical. Checking the teeth of child immigrants is not a niche view – 16 European countries have used dental checks to help determine the ages of asylum seekers or refugees. Former Labour Home Secretary Jack Straw has just backed the plan:
“I would certainly not as Home Secretary have ruled that out … having tests, providing they are not too intrusive and invasive, is actually a sensible thing to do for everyone concerned. Most of them are economic migrants and you have to be pretty firm about this. Part of the problem with the issue of whether they are children is you have got to test their age because you will understandably always get quite a lot of people who, knowing that it’s easier to get in because they are younger, will pretend they are under 18 when they are not. Some of those who are at Calais are genuine refugees but an awful lot are economic migrants,”
Is Creasy ashamed to be in the same parliament as her own party?
The headlines will be about Blair, but worth noting that Chilcot says Jack Straw failed in his responsibility as Foreign Secretary to prepare post-war planning in Iraq:
“It was Mr Straw’s responsibility as foreign secretary to give due consideration to the range of options available to the UK… These included making UK participation in military action conditional on a satisfactory post-conflict plan… Mr Straw did not do so in January 2003… Nor did he… between January and March”
On March 8 2002 Straw demanded to know why a Downing Street paper on WMD did not amplify the threat from Iraq:
“Good, but should not Iraq be FIRST and also have more text? The paper has to show why there is an EXCEPTIONAL threat from Iraq. It does not quite do this yet”.
Chilcot then explains how Straw postponed publication of a paper specifically about Iraq because it wouldn’t convince the public of the threat from Saddam:
“On 18 March, Mr Straw decided that a paper on Iraq should be issued before one addressing other countries of concern. On 22 March, Mr Straw was advised that the evidence would not convince public opinion that there was an imminent threat from Iraq. Publication was postponed.”
Jack Straw did not break parliamentary rules when he boasted he could use his influence to change EU rules for a company that pays him £60,000-a-year:
“I got in to see the relevant director general and his officials in Brussels … and we got the sugar regulations changed,” he said. “I mean … the crucial thing about this, it’s all, it’s public that the regulations have been changed, but the best way of dealing with these things is under the radar”
Malcolm Rifkind has also been cleared this morning. See the original Telegraph/Dispatches story here. Developing…
UPDATE: Despite Straw suggesting he could use his influence to have laws changed in exchange for payment, the Commissioner finds:
“The question of lobbying for reward or consideration simply does not arise”
On Straw boasting about how his reputation and contacts would be useful to a lobbying firm, the Commissioner says sympathetically:
“A Member’s reputation will be important to them and, inevitably, is part of the “package” on which they may rely when they later seek employment outside the House.”
On Rifkind, the Standards Commissioner explains he has let him off on a technicality:
“Had Sir Malcolm’s offer been taken up, particularly after the second meeting when it was clear that PMR were likely to have further questions relating to the possibility of employing him, Sir Malcolm might then have been in breach of the rules by using parliamentary resources for the purpose of boosting his employment prospects.”
The Commissoner says that while Rifkind made “errors of judgement”, “Sir Malcolm has suffered as a result of the allegations and inferences made, which were covered widely in the media”. Playing the world’s tiniest violin…
UPDATE II: The Telegraph and Dispatches get both barrels from the Standards Commissioner:
“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 and those around them, and to the reputation of the House”
UPDATE III:Channel 4 hit back:
“Channel 4 Dispatches stands by its journalism; this was a fair and accurate account of what the two MPs said. This investigation was in the public interest and revealed matters that were of serious public concern.”
On a quiet Friday in July, the Cabinet Office has announced its new clampdown on Freedom of Information, setting up a commission “to make sure it’s working effectively”. Who will get to decide what information journalists can and cannot obtain from government departments?
Jack Straw, a long term opponent of the FoI Act, and a man according to the Telegraph whose “possible role in the rendition of [a] terror suspect may yet be disclosed by FOI requests”.
Lord Carlile of Berriew, such a keen supporter of openness, transparency and holding public figures to account that he acted as Lord Rennard’s legal adviser.
Michael Howard, who was on the receiving end of negative newspaper stories after Labour used FoIs to dig up dirt on him.