They Just Don’t Get It

The alibi former Labour Cabinet minister Stephen Byers gives in the latest sleaze scandal to hit the British Parliament just doesn’t wash. Byers, who was caught along with two other former Cabinet colleagues ready to accept cash from a bogus U.S. lobbying firm to influence current U.K. government ministers, has pushed out a double defence: first, he claims he was just exaggerating his sway with serving Cabinet members, and second, he had never actually lobbied anyone.

Presumably, he left out the word “yet”.

According to Byers therefore he has not breached any Parliamentary rules. The second excuse presumably does let him off the hook technically. Parliamentary rules bar a sitting MP from accepting cash to lobby the government or to shape legislation. But while he might not have broken the letter of the ban, surely he broke the spirit, and if the U.S. firm had not been a make-believe company “created” by undercover reporters, he would have been ready to breach away.

The transport and trade former minister, who plans to step from Parliament at the next election, claimed to undercover reporters that he was a political “cab for hire” who had secured secret deals with ministers and helped firms to get around price-fixing rules. Byers said that he charged up to £5,000 a day.

Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon, the other former ministers caught on camera, also deny any wrongdoing and insisted they had breached no rules.

Presumably, PC Plod can’t charge him with fraud as the company he was seeking to defraud doesn’t actually exist.