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Lobbying probe ex-MPs given passes

Dozens of former MPs, including two ex-ministers under investigation for lobbying allegations, have been granted privileged access to Parliament since the general election.

Some 381 former members are in possession of passes that allow them to roam the Westminster estate and use the subsidised facilities.

They include ex-Labour home secretary Jack Straw and Tory Sir Malcolm Rifkind - both being probed by the Commons standards watchdog after being caught up in a lobbying sting. They have denied wrongdoing.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, disgraced former Cabinet ministers Chris Huhne and Jonathan Aitken, and numerous Liberal Democrats who lost their seats on May 7 are also on the list.

The latest details were released by the Commons authorities following a freedom of information request by the Press Association.

MPs who have served at least one full parliamentary term are eligible to apply for the "Category X" passes.

The scheme is intended to smooth the process of returning to civilian life - but questions have been raised about the potential for lobbying of former colleagues and whether individuals should retain access to the estate.

As of June 22, 381 ex-members held a pass - up from 356 in a previous list that dated from just a few days after the election.

Northern Ireland deputy first minister Mr McGuinness, who never formally took up his Commons seat on point of principle, has decided he still wants to be able to visit the estate despite stepping down in Mid Ulster two years ago.

Hazel Blears and David Blunkett, who served in Labour Cabinets, and Conservative former health secretary Andrew Lansley have been granted access - as has Brooks Newmark, the Tory minister who quit after a sending explicit photographs of himself to an undercover reporter.

Lib Dems Simon Hughes, Andrew Stunell, Sir Nick Harvey, John Hemming and Duncan Hames featured on the list - but Mr Hames' wife Jo Swinson has not yet applied and there is no sign of Danny Alexander, Ed Davey, Vince Cable or David Laws.

Senior Labour figures Ed Balls, Douglas Alexander and Jim Murphy, who lost their seats on May 7, have not been added to the roll.

Several ex-MPs who left the House at the 2010 election following the expenses scandal still hold passes.

Derek Conway had the Conservative whip withdrawn and then stepped down after being heavily censured for putting his son on the public payroll without apparently giving him any duties.

Labour's Ben Chapman declined to stand again after it emerged he had overclaimed on his mortgage by £15,000.

There is no suggestion that any of the individuals have been involved in lobbying - which is explicitly banned under the "Category X" rules.

The disclosure indicates that the only person to have been barred from holding a pass was Jim Devine, who had his suspended in 2011 after being convicted of fiddling expenses.

Other politicians appear to have let their passes lapse, however. Labour ex-ministers Alan Milburn and Patricia Hewitt both appeared on earlier lists but not on the latest version.


From Belfast Telegraph