MPs suspended for not quite sure what

Three former Cabinet ministers have been suspended by the Labour Party after it was discovered they had earned additional income from using their political influence in other areas.

An investigation carried out for Channel 4’s Dispatches series found that Stephen Byers, Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt had all boosted their income by using their political expertise to secure casual work in addition to their parliamentary roles, which, if not declared, is frowned upon slightly by government officials.

The documentary showed undercover footage of Hewitt taking advantage of her ministerial position part-time at her local pub, although when challenged on this, Ms Hewitt insisted she was “only helping out” as it was a busy evening and “they were literally run ragged all night.”

Another passage of the documentary showed Stephen Byers clearly use his parliamentary influence on a Dagenham building site in return for a cash sum believed to be in the region of £50. Byers dismissed the footage as “nonsense” and insisted that he had never taken on any additional paid work, except for a couple of cleaning jobs and a day spent working on a farm, both of which he “voluntarily declared”.

The Channel 4 show concluded with a sequence during which a journalist posed as the manager of a taxi firm, securing the political expertise of Geoff Hoon on Friday and Saturday evenings in an undercover sting operation filmed last autumn. Mr. Hoon was enthusiastic about the offer, saying he could possibly cover one or two weeknights “as and when” required, so long as it was “cash in hand”. He cheerfully ended the meeting by declaring he was “looking forward to starting as soon as possible.”

Chief Whip Nick Brown and General Secretary Ray Collins decided to enforce a suspension immediately after the programme was shown on Channel 4 on Monday night. “As soon as I saw the documentary, I knew we had to do something,” said Collins this morning. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, although I wasn’t entirely sure what the problem actually was. After the second ad break it dawned on me that this must be quite serious, so I phoned Nick and said ‘Have you seen this thing on Channel 4?’ and he was like ‘Yeah, tell me about it’. We had a bit of a chat during the rest of the show and decided that an appropriate punishment would be to issue an immediate suspension to all three of them, pending further investigation into these issues. It is important that we’re seen to be acting swiftly and decisively on this, especially given the upcoming election. Plus we think they’re all pricks.”

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