Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), has stepped down amid the ongoing ‘cash for access’ row. The ISC plays a crucial role overseeing the work of the UK's spy agencies GCHQ, MI5 and MI6.
Rifkind has denied any wrongdoing after video evidence emerged of him allegedly offering his services to a private firm for money.
Questions have also arisen over the extent of the work done by Rifkind in his role as chairman of the ISC after a video showed him saying: "You’d be surprised how much free time I have".
The comments come in the aftermath of major investigations into the security agencies GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 in the wake of the Snowden revelations of 2013.
Former ISC chairman Kim Howells said on Newsnight on Monday that he was “a bit bewildered” that Rifkind had claimed he had so much free time, given the sheer level of work required in the role.
"The amount of reading on that committee is phenomenal. So much classified material comes across the desks of the ISC, and you have to read it in the offices of the ISC,” he said.
In light of this, the ISC confirmed today that Rikfind will step down as chairman, although he will remain on the board.
"I have today informed my colleagues that, while I will remain a member of the committee, I will step down from the chairmanship," he said.
Rifkind noted that the ISC will be dissolved in little over a month before the forthcoming General Election and needs to focus on the publication of its Privacy and Security Report during March.
Rifkind did not want his situation to be a "distraction" and "concluded, therefore, that it is better that this important work should be presided over by a new chairman".
Rifkind will also step down as MP for Kensington at the end of his current term, having originally intended to stand for one final term if elected.
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