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Summary

  1. Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind deny wrongdoing after Dispatches/Telegraph claims
  2. Proposed schedule for televised election debates published by broadcasters
  3. David Cameron's election pledge to keep universal benefits for pensioners
  4. Lib Dem Nick Clegg says a rising prison population is a sign of "failure, not success"
  5. UKIP set out its health policy, including an already announced extra £3bn of annual spending.

Live Reporting

By Angela Harrison

All times stated are UK

Get involved

  1. Night round-up

    A quick look back at the main stories of the day:

    • Two MPs who are both former foreign secretaries have been suspended from their parliamentary parties in what's been dubbed a "cash for access" scandal.
    • Labour's Jack Straw and the Conservative, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, were secretly filmed discussing possibly working with a fictitious Chinese company. Both deny breaking any rules and have referred themselves to parliament's standards watchdog.
    • Labour leader Ed Miliband says he would ban MPs from taking paid directorships or consultancies
    • In other news, David Cameron says the Conservatives would keep universal benefits for pensioners if they were re-elected
    • Broadcasters have set out the order of the proposed leaders' TV election debates. They would finish with a Cameron v Miliband head-to-head the Thursday before the country goes to the polls on 7 May
    • UKIP leader Nigel Farage says his party would find an extra £3bn for the NHS, funded by reducing payments to the European Union
    • In the Commons this afternoon, the Chancellor George Osborne and shadow chancellor Ed Balls traded accusations that both of their parties failed to act on information about tax avoidance and evasion relating to HSBC

    That's all from the Politics Live team for tonight. We'll be back at 06:00 tomorrow to bring you the latest political news.

  2. 'Committee's decision'

    Newsnight

    More reaction to the allegations about the two MPs and former foreign ministers, Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who both deny any wrong-doing. There have been some calls for Sir Malcolm to stand down as chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, after the two men were secretly filmed separately discussing possibly working for a fictitious Chinese company.

    The former chairman of the same committee, Labour's Kim Howells, told Newsnight the committee's reputation cannot be "dragged down, it is too important".

    "Its reputation isn't being improved when it looks as if the chair of the committee is the victim of a sting operation," he said, adding that any decision on whether Sir Malcolm should leave that post had to be made by the committee.

  3. 'Cash for access' row

    Newsnight

    Adam Afriyie

    Conservative MP Adam Afriyie tells Newsnight that "It's very important that every MP has outside interests and sometimes outside earnings". But Green MP Caroline Lucas said being an MP was "about public service" and a "full-time job".

  4. Tomorrow's Independent

    Independent
  5. Tomorrow's Times

    Times front page
  6. ComRes poll for Daily Mail

    The Daily Mail

    More on that new ComRes poll for the Daily Mail, which puts the Conservatives two points ahead of Labour. It suggests UKIP has slipped four points to 13% and that the Greens are on 8% - level with the Lib Dems.

    Con 34% (+3)

    Lab 32% (+2)

    LD 8% (NC)

    UKIP 13% (-4)

    Green 8% (+1)

    Others 6% (-1)

    ComRes interviewed 1,004 GB adults by telephone between 20th and 23rd February 2015. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults.

  7. Tomorrow's Daily Mirror

    Mirror
  8. Tomorrow's Financial Times

    Ft front page
  9. James Chapman, Daily Mail

    @jameschappers

    tweets: First @DailyMailUK/@ComResPolls poll: Tories up since Jan, Ukip on slide: CON 34 (+3) LAB 32 (+2) UKIP 13 (-4) LIB 8 (-) GRN 8 (+1)

  10. Nick Sutton. Editor, World at One

    @suttonnick

    tweets: Tuesday's Telegraph front page: Straw to take job with firm he lobbied for in Commons #tomorrowspaperstoday

    Telegraph front page
  11. Putin on Ukraine

    An issue abroad which will interest UK politicians: Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has said he thinks war with Ukraine is an "apocalyptic scenario" which is very unlikely. He told Russian television the peace deal agreed in Minsk was the best way to normalise the situation and denied that Russian troops had been helping rebels in eastern Ukraine.

  12. Sex selection

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    Fiona Bruce MP

    In the Commons, MPs have rejected an amendment aimed at clarifying the law and explicitly banning abortion on the grounds of gender alone - voting 292 to 201.

    Conservative Fiona Bruce had pressed for the change, with the backing of more than 100 MPs drawn from both sides of the Commons. But after a brief debate, MPs rejected the proposal - which would not have changed the law but sought to update 1967 legislation drafted before it was possible to identify the sex of a foetus.

  13. Twitter on Dispatches

    Twitter hashtag #PoliticiansforHire is drawing together comments on the Dispatches/ Telegraph investigation.

    Words such as "sleaze" and "greed" appear, alongside phrases such as "media stirring", "minimum wage" or in praise of investigative journalism.

    Journalist @jennykleeman tweets: Wincing as well as cringeing #PoliticiansforHire

    Tom Latchem (@theboylatch) tweets: "Whatever the rules, our footage raises questions.." (ie. We don't have proof of rule-breaking so we'll run it anyway.) #PoliticiansforHire

    There's not much sympathy for the MPs, with anger being directed at the fees they can command on top of their salaries.

    However, a few speak up for politicians, including @JamesMills1984 of Labour who tweets: I hate lobbying scandals as the majority of politicians I've met regardless of party aren't driven by self-enrichment.. #PoliticiansForHire

  14. Dispatches

    Iain Watson

    Political correspondent, BBC News

    This is more about tone than a question of breaking any rules. Sir Malcolm and Jack Straw are saying they stayed within the spirit and letter of the rules, but the impression being given is that they are looking around for other work when they should be concentrating on their day job.

  15. What's happening in Parliament?

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    Over at the Houses of Parliament, MPs are continuing their scrutiny of the government's Serious Crime Bill, which is going through its remaining stages in the Commons. The House of Lords is also busy, debating athe Modern Slavery Bill. Our colleagues at Democracy Live bring you all the latest.

  16. Dispatches

    Channel 4

    Jack Straw

    In secret filming, Jack Straw says he "turns down quite a lot" [of offers of work]. "I have to be able to justify myself afterwards and to my constituents," he is heard to say.

    In a statement later to the progamme, he says he had made it clear that any work undertaken would be after he had stood down as an MP. All his outside work had been fully and properly declared, he said.

  17. 'Cash for access' row

    #politiciansforhire hashtag is trending on Twitter.

  18. 12 MPs targeted

    Channel 4

    Dispatches says reporters approached 12 MPs asking if they would be interested in joining the advisory board of a Chinese company. Half of the MPs did not respond, while one said they were not interested, the programme says.

  19. 'Old ruse worked well'

    Channel 4

    On Dispatches, reporter Anthony Barnett reminds viewers that the programme did the same kind of 'sting' five years ago and that this led to an inquiry and "a couple of changes" to the rules.

    "Our ruse worked so well last time, we thought we would give it another go," he said.

    The programme and a joint investigation by the Telegraph led to ex-foreign secretaries Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw being suspended from their respective party groups in parliament. They were secretly filmed apparently offering services to a private company for cash. Both deny doing anything wrong.

  20. Matthew Harris, LBC executive producer

    @hattmarris84

    tweets: Rachel Reeves goes on to brand Andrew Rosindell a 'misogynistic dinosaur' for questioning her competence during/after her pregnancy.

  21. 'Fuels cynicism'

    BBC News Channel

    Some more reaction to the cash for access story. The Daily Mirror's associate editor Kevin Maguire tells the BBC News Channel it "fuels cynicism" and further erodes faith in politics and politicians. It isn't the voters who are most angry about it, he adds, but other MPs. Mr Maguire adds that it is "quite astonishing" that Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw - two former foreign secretaries - fell for the sting.

  22. Animal slaughter

    A Tory MP said he would prefer to be stunned if his throat was to be cut, as ministers were urged to ban non-stun slaughter.

    Former army officer and Beckenham MP Bob Stewart said witnessing pigs having their throats cut made his heart bleed, adding it was "quite disgraceful" animals in the UK were not pre-stunned before they were killed.

    He was speaking in a debate triggered by an e-petition signed by 116,163 people calling for an end to the slaughter of animals who have not been stunned.

  23. Miliband on the arts

    Sean Coughlan

    Education correspondent

    Ed Miliband

    Labour would put the arts at the heart of government, with schools playing a key role, says party leader Ed Miliband.

  24. Rotherham scandal

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    Louise Casey, the author of a withering report on Rotherham Council's failure to tackle child sexual exploitation, has told MPs that South Yorkshire Police should face the same level of scrutiny over their "failure".

    She told the Communities and Local Government Committee: "The police have to step up and accept the same level of responsibility to those victims and those perpetrators as the local authority.

    "We were asked to inspect Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council and we left no stone unturned. It's a pretty thorough and damning report. The same level of scrutiny has not happened ... to the police in Rotherham over that time."

  25. Lord Ashcroft, former Conservative treasurer

    @LordAshcroft

    tweets: Average of the Ashcroft National Poll 2nd February to 23rd February CON 31.8% LAB 32.2% LDEM 8.2% UKIP 14.0% GRNS 7.8%

  26. TV debates

    Natalie Bennett, Nigel Farage, Nick Clegg, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood

    Back to the TV debates for a moment, following the broadcasters' announcement of the proposed schedule. Darren Hughes, deputy chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, has said: "We welcome today's agreement by the broadcasters as another important step forward in getting the TV debates which the British public deserve.

    "But it's now up to the parties to commit, once and for all, to taking part."

  27. Campbell on Labour

    Tony Blair's former spin doctor Alastair Campbell has said the current Labour team needs to "step up" because there is too much focus on Ed Miliband. "There is a responsibility for Ed Miliband to engage and liberate the broader team, but more importantly for that broader team to step up to it ... the election is becoming far too focused on the two leaders," he said.

    He said Tristram Hunt, Andrew Burnham and Rachel Reeves were key players who should increase their profiles to show Labour had a "talented" team and boost the party ahead of the election.

    Ed Miliband
  28. Russian sanctions

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    Also from the PM's statement earlier - Conservative MP Cheryl Gillan pushed the prime minster for detail about when sanctions on Russia might be in place. There is "concern the unrest may spread", she said. David Cameron said the argument for more sanctions was increasing. "Europe and America need to make the weight of their economic relationship with Russia pay. At the end of the day, Russia needs us more than we need Russia," he added.

  29. Labour response

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    Responding to the Prime Minister's earlier statement, Labour leader Ed Miliband saidhis party supported the proposals for a passenger name directive. In addition to this though, the "Prevent" programme must be looked at again, to see how local communities can be better integrated into the scheme, he argued.

    Labour also supports the prime minister's proposals to "extend economic sanctions" on Russia if the Minsk ceasefire agreement was not adhered to. It was "vital the international community stand ready to increase pressure on Russia", he added.

  30. Afternoon round-up

    The top headlines today include:

    • Ex-foreign secretaries Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw have been suspended from their respective party groups in parliament after being secretly filmed apparently offering services to a private company for cash
    • Both political veterans deny doing anything wrong. The Dispatches programme will be broadcast on Channel 4 at 8pm, you can read the Daily Telegraph's report here. Here's a guide to the row and the rules for MPs.
    • David Cameron says the Conservatives would keep universal benefits for pensioners if they are elected to government in the general election
    • The broadcasters have set out the order of the proposed leaders' TV election debates. They would finish with a Cameron v Miliband head-to-head the Thursday before the country goes to the polls on 7 May
    • UKIP leader Nigel Farage says his party would find an extra £3bn for the NHS, funded by reducing payments to the European Union
    • In the Commons this afternoon, the Chancellor George Osborne and shadow chancellor Ed Balls traded accusations that both of their parties failed to act on information about tax avoidance and evasion relating to HSBC
    • Later, the Prime Minister said the government wanted the police and security services to have access to passenger name records for all routes in and out of Britain
  31. James Cook, BBC Scotland Correspondent

    tweets: Former Downing St communications director Andy Coulson to stand trial on perjury charge on April 21 following hearing in Edinburgh today.

  32. Minimum wage

    Iain Watson

    Political correspondent, BBC News

    The business secretary Vince Cable has revealed that the Low Pay Commission will recommend an above inflation - 3% - increase in the adult rate of the minimum wage from £6.50 and hour to 6.70 an hour (the biggest rise since 2008).

  33. Sturgeon: People's nightmares

    Nicola Sturgeon

    Nicola Sturgeon has criticised the Prime Minister after he claimed an alliance between the SNP and Labour would be the "'ultimate nightmare scenario" for Britain after the general election.

    On a visit to London, the Scottish First Minister said: "People in Scotland should think that anything that is a nightmare for David Cameron is a good thing for most other people."

  34. Passenger name records

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    The need for police and security services to have access to passenger name records for all routes in and out of Britain, was the subject of the "most substantial discussions at European Council", the Prime Minister tells MPs.

    Following the attacks in Paris and Copenhagen the council agreed that EU legislators would "urgently adopt a strong and effective passenger name directive", Mr Cameron says.

  35. Russia must 'change course'

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    Turning to the situation in Ukraine, David Cameron says "far from changing course" Russia's "illegal actions in Eastern Ukraine have reached a new level".

    He warns that Russia must "change course now or the economic pain it endures will only increase".

    The government will debate how to enact this at the upcoming G7 summit.

  36. In Quotes: Nick Clegg on prisons

    "Prison works' is a slogan, not a solution. It is not working when it routinely turns first-time offenders into hardened criminals. We want to end the revolving door that sees offenders leave prison with no help and no hope, only to return to their cell a few weeks later."

  37. Labour attacks Lib Dems on prisons

    Shadow justice minister Sadiq Khan responded to Nick Clegg's speech about prisons saying: "Under Liberal Democrat ministers, there's been a surge in suicides, a massive spike in violence and prisoners are idling their time away in their cells or on landings."

  38. LBC radio

    @LBC

    Tweets: On who will win the election in May, Jeffrey Archer tells @ShelaghFogarty "I haven't got a clue. It will be 400 by-elections."

  39. Sikh regiment?

    The head of the British Army is examining proposals to create a Sikh regiment, the Armed Forces minister has said. Mark Francois said the idea "may well have merit" as he told the Commons a reserve company was also under consideration. Conservative former defence minister Sir Nicholas Soames had urged ministers to "do away with political correctness" and raise a Sikh regiment.

  40. Kerry McCarthy - Labour MP

    @KerryMP

    tweets: The Mogg makes a grand defence of tax avoidance, says "the most respectable families" do it. Osborne squirms, says he's "not going there".

  41. PM on missing schoolgirls

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    The Prime Minister tells the Commons everyone has a responsibility to help stop young people being radicalised. Schools, colleges, families, religious leaders and community leaders all had a part to play, he said.

    David Cameron, speaking about the disappearance of three teenage girls thought to be heading for Syria, also said there was a need for a new agreement with airlines to make sure "at-risk" children could be identified. The government was working on that, he said.

  42. Can you be pregnant and in cabinet?

    Rachel Reeves

    A Conservative MP appears to have questioned whether or not Labour's Rachel Reeves would be able to handle a cabinet role while pregnant, if Labour wins the election. She has dismissed his comments, and Downing Street backed her, saying it was up to individuals to decide what they wanted to do.

  43. Change of team

    There's just time for a quick change of guard here at Politics Live, while the afternoon team take over. It's been a busy morning, what with speeches from party leaders David Cameron, Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg. But the main political story of the day, which continues to provoke strong reaction from across the political divide focuses on the the cash for access claims against Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind. The debate in the Commons over the HSBC tax scandal continues to rage and colleague Angela Harrison will continue to bring you all the news and analysis for the rest of the day.

  44. Who knew what

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    Downing Street said ministers did not know about these allegations until two weeks ago when the prime minister was unable to answer similar questions.

    But now Mr Osborne says he knew in 2009, Ed Balls says.

    Mr Balls accuses the government of receiving detailed information in May 2010 about 1,000 HSBC clients.

  45. Osborne response

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    George Osborne says of Mr Balls: "He is fighting for his political life."

    "The person bringing this question to the House is the person with the most to answer for," adding that the country had lost confidence in Mr Balls.

  46. Questions for the Chancellor

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    Ed Balls says if George Osborne first became aware of alleged HSBC tax evasion "why did he not act when he became chancellor?". He said: "Did Lord Green have any involvement in the Swiss tax deal when he was trade minister? Did he ever give advice to the Treasury on it?"

    He accused the government of "negligence in failing to act on the evidence the government received".

    "Just as in the appointment of Mr [Andy] Coulson, did not they just turn a blind eye?" he said.

  47. Post update

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    Shadow chancellor Ed Balls tells MPs the country needs answers not another chancellor sweeping allegations under the carpet.

  48. Osborne attacks Labour on HSBC

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    "I first became aware in 2009 when an article appeared in the Financial Times, " says Chancellor George Osborne.

    "He [shadow chancellor Ed Balls] was a cabinet minister when he first heard about them."

  49. George Osborne urgent question

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    In answering an urgent question from shadow chancellor Ed Balls, Chancellor George Osborne said that the "chief executive of HMRC has confirmed they have the necessary resources to carry out their work on this". He added that "the House should know that in each and every case" the tax evasions happened before 2006, when Labour was in power. He said that under the coalition government "tax evasion prosecutions are up fivefold".

  50. Russians 'properly dealt with'

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    Defence Secretary Michael Fallon tells MPs that any Russian military excursion into UK waters or airspace "will be properly dealt with".

  51. Urgent Question

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    MPs will shortly be hearing an urgent question to Chancellor George Osborne from shadow chancellor Ed Balls on HSBC and the row over tax avoidance and evasion.

  52. Modern Slavery Bill

    House of Lords

    Parliament

    In the House of Lords, the first of two report stage days on the Modern Slavery Bill begins.

    The bill, which applies to England and Wales, aims to provide law enforcement agencies with better tools to stamp out modern slavery.

    It would increase the punishment for slavery crimes, including a maximum life sentence.

  53. Investigation into UKIP drama

    Promo picture for the programme

    Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has said it is carrying out an investigation into the Channel 4 docudrama, which imagined UKIP leader Nigel Farage as prime minister. The show - called UKIP: The First 100 Days - was set in a future in which UKIP won the 2015 general election, and sparked 5,262 complaints. A Channel 4 spokeswoman said: "We are confident that the programme did not breach the Ofcom code and we will be providing a response to the investigation." Meanwhile, a UKIP spokesman said: "As we know, Ofcom has received a huge number of complaints. They must now get on and do their job."

  54. Lib Dems on crime

    The Liberal Democrats say they want to see fewer people in prison if they're part of the next government. Leader Nick Clegg says locking up drug addicts and people with mental health problems risks turning them in to hardened offenders - and that this doesn't mean his party is "soft on crime".

    In a speech, he said: "Abused and vulnerable women, people with serious mental health issues, drug users and addicts, all crammed like sardines into crowded prisons. That is not proof that prison is working. It's a litany of despair."

  55. Matthew Price - BBC chief correspondent

    @BBCMatthewPrice

    Tweets: Few weeks ago in Tilbury UKIP voters told me Farage's support for private health insurance might put them off. No wonder he backtracked.

  56. MP's 'not paid enough'

    Phillip Bond

    Phillip Blond, who is a director of the centre-right think-tank ResPublica, said MPs should be banned from having second jobs, but they should be paid more for being in Parliament. He said: "I think we really need to look at the true origin of all of this expenses, cash-for-access scandal... which is actually in terms of the proper parity that MPs should receive for their job. They are actually not paid enough. We need to recognise that MPs are at the top of the public service tree, and pay them at the same level as top GPs, top civil servants, top head teachers."

  57. UKIP on the NHS

    UKIP leader Nigel Farage said his party was "committed" to a free NHS paid for by taxes, as he made.

  58. Rifkind's Labour rival

    Labour's Dr Rod Abouharb is a challenger for Sir Malcolm Rifkind's Kensington seat. He has blogged in relation to the allegations made against his political opponent, offering a "fresh start". Mr Rifkind denies any wrongdoing.

  59. Who wants to be an MP?

    Daily Politics

    Daily Politics film

    Who would want to be a member of Parliament? That's what the Daily Politics' Adam Fleming went to find out at Spitalfields market in London, armed with his moodbox.

  60. TV debates to go ahead?

    The Spectator

    The Spectator's assistant editor, Isabel Hardman, blogs on the prospect of the proposed TV election debates going ahead. Earlier today, the order of the proposed debates was confirmed by broadcasters, with seven-way debates planned for 2 April and 16 April, culminating in a head-to-head between David Cameron and Ed Miliband on 30 April.

  61. Pic: Cameron's post-speech cuppa

    David Cameron

    After delivering his pledge to protect universal benefits for pensioners, David Cameron met these readers of Saga - which for those who don't know is magazine aimed at people aged over 50.

  62. Analysis: UKIP and the NHS

    Robin Brant

    Political Correspondent, BBC News

    The NHS is a double edged sword for UKIP. Playing up a raft of new (ish) health policies - at the latest in the party's series of set piece speeches in the run up to the general election - is designed to broaden its appeal. But it also highlights what has been - and I've reported is likely to continue to be after the election - a controversial area for UKIP. There have been internal rows over Nigel Farage's support for a private insurance model. He lost that argument with others at the top of the party, but Labour says he hasn't lost the belief in the need for such radical change. On the contrary UKIP believes strong support for the NHS - with that extra £3bn a year spending pledge - plays well in areas where the party is trying to damage Ed Miliband's chances in the north of England.

  63. Also coming up...

    House of Lords

    Parliament

    The House of Lords is also sitting this week, and kicks off its business at the same time as the Commons: 14.30 GMT. Peers always begin their day with a half-hour question session with government ministers, which today will cover topics such as business rates reform and the Ukraine conflict. The main item on the agenda is consideration of the Modern Slavery Bill, and there will also be a short debate on hotels and facilities for disabled people.

  64. Debate on non-stun slaughter

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    In Westminster Hall, MPs are to debate an e-petition calling an end to the religious slaughter of animals, to promote animal welfare, from 16.30 GMT. The petition, which is being championed by Conservative MP Philip Hollobone, urges an end to the slaughter of animals which have not been rendered unconscious first. The law requires abattoirs to stun animals before slaughter to prevent unnecessary suffering but there are exemptions for Halal and Kosher producers.

  65. Coming up...

    House of Commons

    Parliament

    Following a week-long break, it's almost time for MPs to get back to the House of Commons and put their mind to all things parliamentary. In just over an hour, defence ministers will line the government front bench to answer questions on the department's remit. That'll be followed by an urgent question from Labour on the HSBC tax scandal, which will require a government ministers to respond. This will kick off at about 15.30 GMT, before David Cameron's statement on the outcome of the weekend's summit of EU leaders. The main business is dedicated to debate on the government's Serious Crime Bill, while the day will end with a shot half-hour debate on oesophageal cancer.

  66. Pensioner benefits analysis

    Kevin Peachey

    Personal finance reporter

    This is not the last time we will hear about pensioner benefits - and the claim that they are subsidised by younger generations - during election year. These benefits cost £3bn a year. That is small when you consider that all the main parties are willing to spend hundreds of millions of pounds during the next Parliament by sticking with the "triple lock" protection of the state pension.

    So, the debate is perhaps more about the "fairness" of protecting some from cuts, but not others, rather than a merely a matter of finance. The same debate was bubbling around when child benefit entitlement was reduced for more than a million families two years ago. When politicians do their sums about other universal benefits, votes as well as costs will be part of the calculations.

  67. 'Toxic issue'

    The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Presented by Martha Kearney

    More on the cash for access story. Both MPs deny any wrongdoing, but BBC deputy political editor James Landale says the parties had "no choice" but to act quickly as they couldn't afford to be on the back foot on such a "toxic issue", with the general election approaching. That is why both parties had insisted on suspending the two members, he says.

    So, what next? James Landale predicts the debate will move "full square" into a debate on second jobs. He notes that the investigations into the two MPs will take a little bit of time, and says the parties will want to "draw the sting" from the story and hope that they can move on. But he warns that these kind of stories "tend not to move on".

  68. Cash for access claims

    The World at One BBC Radio 4

    Presented by Martha Kearney

    The cash for access story is on the agenda for today's BBC Radio 4's World at One programme. Labour MP Angela Eagle, shadow leader of the Commons, says it was right for Jack Straw to resign the Labour whip and refer himself to the parliamentary standards commissioner. He has "important and serious questions to answer", but she adds that she will not "second guess" the process. Asked whether Sir Malcolm Rifkind should stand down as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Ms Eagle says he should "take a good look at the circumstances he finds himself him and take a judgement on that".

  69. Lunchtime round-up

    The top headlines today include:

    • Ex-foreign secretaries Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw have been suspended from their respective party groups in parliament after being secretly filmed apparently offering services to a private company for cash
    • Both political veterans deny doing anything wrong. The Dispatches programme will be broadcast on Channel 4 at 8pm, you can read the Daily Telegraph's report here. Here's a guide to the row and the rules for MPs.
    • David Cameron says the Conservatives would keep universal benefits for pensioners if they are elected to government in the general election
    • The broadcasters have set out the order of the proposed leaders' TV election debates. They would finish with a Cameron v Miliband head-to-head the Thursday before the country goes to the polls on 7 May
    • UKIP leader Nigel Farage says his party would find an extra £3bn for the NHS, funded by reducing payments to the European Union.
  70. 'Repeat the tax on bank bonuses'

    Cathy Jamieson

    Cathy Jamieson, Labour's shadow financial secretary to the Treasury, responded to today's news about HSBC's annual results after the bank said 2014 was a "challenging year" and reported a 17% fall in profit to $18.7bn. The bank's chief executive Stuart Gulliver saw his pay and bonuses drop for the year to £7.6m from £8.03m in 2013.

    But Ms Jamieson said: "People will be astounded that bonuses of this size are still being paid out after the revelations of the last few days. This underlines Labour's determination to repeat the tax on bank bonuses in order to fund a jobs programme for young people. We also need wider reform of the banking industry, including extending clawback of bank bonuses to at least ten years in cases where there has been inappropriate behaviour."

  71. Urgent question on HSBC tax

    Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has just been granted an urgent question to the Chancellor, George Osborne, at 15:30 GMT in the House of Commons this afternoon on HSBC and tax avoidance.

  72. Robin Brant - BBC political correspondent

    @robindbrant

    tweets: @Nigel_Farage says he doesn't think 'meet the kippers' BBC doc that exposed Cllr 'negro' comments 'will do us any harm'

  73. Nick Clegg - Lib Dem leader

    @nick_clegg

    Tweets: That is the Tory policy - tough on the weak but soft on the strong. Nothing asked of rich pensioners but working age poor to be hammered.

  74. Miliband on Jack Straw

    On the cash-for-access claims Ed Miliband said these were disturbing allegations and it was right that Jack Straw had referred himself to the parliamentary commissioner and been suspended from the group of Labour MPs in Parliament. He said: "We need a proper investigation but I believe we need to go further. Labour candidates standing at the next election will be banned from taking paid directorships or consultancies." You can watch Mr Miliband's full comments here.

  75. Rifkind future

    Norman Smith

    BBC Assistant Political Editor

    Sir Malcolm Rifkind is to face an internal Tory party disciplinary inquiry which will determine whether he has brought the party into disrepute. If he is found to have done so, then Sir Malcolm would not be allowed to stand as a candidate in the forthcoming election.

  76. Campaign review

    BBC News Channel

    Emily Ashton, from Buzzfeed, tells the BBC News Channel's campaign review: "I think there's a lot of reasons why people are turning to the smaller parties," and anger at things like the cash for access story is one of them. But Kate Devlin, from the Herald, points out, the smaller parties have realised their big problem is that they're polling well but its still very hard to pick up seats so they need to do more to grab attention for their policies

  77. 'Really concern people'

    BBC News Channel

    Tom Watson

    Labour MP Tom Watson has heaped more pressure on Sir Malcolm Rifkind who is currently the chairman of the intelligence select committee.

    Mr Watson told BBC News: "The idea that we can have a chair of an intelligence committee who is negotiating payments from a Chinese company I think would really concern people in the intelligence community. If the chairman of the intelligence committee does not have... no longer has the confidence of the prime minister, then he shouldn't be in that position. And I think the prime minister needs to form a view whether he wants the intelligence chair... to be working as a lobbyist for Chinese companies."

  78. Harry Cole, blogger and contributing editor at the Spectator

    @MrHarryCole

    Tweets: Red Ukip takeover has given Eurosceptic right-wingers an ideological excuse to hold their noses and vote Conservative.

  79. Rifkind on whip withdrawal

    Reacting to the news that he's lost the party whip, Sir Malcolm Rifkind told BBC2's Daily Politics: "I think that is meant to be a temporary matter." On the issue of the prime minister's support - or possibly lack thereof - he added: "I don't expect the prime minister to reach conclusions when there have been allegations made."

  80. Switch in allegiance

    Dripping with irony, Mr Farage answers a question about Rozanne Duncan, the councillor he expelled for what he called racist remarks. "I understand she's pledged to support the Conservatives again in south Thanet and I'm sure they're very pleased."

  81. Pressure to stand down

    Norman Smith

    BBC Assistant Political Editor

    The prime minister said it was not for him to say whether Sir Malcolm Rifkind should be the chairman of the intelligence committee, it was down to the committee members. However, David Cameron could easily have said 'he's doing a good job', but he didn't say that and I suspect there might be pressure for him stand down.

  82. Mitchell row

    Mr Farage is bullish when asked about the Austin Mitchell story from Sunday - Mr Mitchell, you might remember, suggested a "raving alcoholic sex paedophile" could win his Great Grimsby seat as long as they were Labour. "I think all bets are off," says the UKIP leader. "I'll be straight with you. Great Grimsby is one of our target seats and we think we've got a better than 50% chance of winning it."

  83. Farage on Rifkind and Straw

    "I think not only did it look bad, it was bad," says Nigel Farage on the allegations against Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw. On the subject of the former's position as chairman of the intelligence and security committee, he adds: "I think it's very questionable he would hang onto any senior positions."

  84. Post update

    Joey Jones, deputy political editor, Sky News

    Tweets: So two investigations for Rifkind; parly commissioner + cchq which presumably will report quickly so rifkind can stand in seat if cleared.

  85. Cameron on sex-selective abortions

    On the issue of the MPs vote later on banning sex-selective abortions. Mr Cameron said: "I support the status quo. Abortion on gender grounds is not legal, "but there are very few circumstances" where it is necessary. "I will be voting to maintain that status quo... but I hope the abortion laws are properly policed," he said.

  86. Second jobs

    The prime minister says he is not completely against MPs having second jobs. On Labour's proposals to limit the amount MPs could earn from second jobs, he says they would allow someone to be a trade union official but not "to run the family shop" or something similar.

  87. More from Cameron

    Mr Cameron says the issue of lobbying is "very serious" and lists his government's actions on improving transparency and standards. He says the issue of the chairmanship of the intelligence select committee is not something he has control over.

  88. BreakingBreaking News

    David Cameron confirms the party whip is being removed from Sir Malcolm Rifkind.

  89. Cost of care

    Mr Cameron says the Conservatives will also look at the cost of care. "In the past we have seen 45,000 people forced to sell their own home to pay for care. Our care reforms are the most significant for 70 years." He added that his policies would "spare thousands of people the need to sell their own home" in the future.

  90. BreakingBreaking News

    The Conservatives have suspended the whip from Sir Malcolm Rifkind and will convene a disciplinary committee to investigate his case, a party source has told the Press Association.

  91. Post update

    The BBC News Channel will have its weekly Campaign Countdown Review at 12:30 with Buzzfeed's Emily Ashton and Kate Devlin from the Herald. As UKIP discuss their health policies and with the Greens set to launch their campaign tomorrow, they'll be discussing the growth of the smaller parties - as well as asking whether the spirit of the campaign has been rather negative so far.

  92. More from PM speech

    He said Tory policy would give "power to pensioners" and see "the last remnant of the nanny state gone".

  93. 'Need and deserve'

    "These aren't luxuries, they are what people who work hard all their lives need and deserve." Mr Cameron is referring to winter fuel allowance, free TV licences and free bus passes.

  94. Women's mental health

    Louise Bours, UKIP

    UKIP is making promises on mental health - something the Lib Dems have also been focused on. Among the plans, Ms Bours says they'll make sure there is mental health treatment and support available for all pregnant women and mothers of children under one if they need it.

  95. 'Security in retirement for everyone'

    David CAmeron

    David Cameron tells his audience in Hastings he wants there to be "security in retirement for everyone". He added that "if you have worked hard during your life you deserve dignity when you retire".

    "We're saying whoever you are... if you have put into the system you will get out."

  96. 'Better way to spend our money'

    UKIP has promised to up the NHS budget by £3bn a year. "This money will provide 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 new GPs," Ms Bours says. "I think that's a far better way to spend our money than giving it to the extortionate, out-of-touch EU club."

  97. Cameron speech begins

    Prime Minister David Cameron is now on his feet, beginning a speech about a future Tory government's plan to keep universal benefits for pensioners.

  98. 'Nursed back to health'

    "It's the NHS itself that needs emergency care and nursing back to health," UKIP's health spokesman Louise Bours says. The main cause of the injury? The kicking it receives as a political football, she says,

  99. PM's spokesman

    Norman Smith

    BBC Assistant Political Editor

    No 10 say the prime minister "understands the concerns that have been raised" about the conduct of Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw. The spokesman said Sir Malcolm's position as chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee would be one of the issues discussed with the Chief Whip. The spokesman declined to express a view on whether Sir Malcolm should remain as Chairman. He was asked if the PM still has confidence in Sir Malcolm's position but he declined to express any support.

  100. Pic: Reckless on UKIP health policy

    Mark Reckless, UKIP MP
  101. 'Privatisation and fragmentation'

    Mark Reckless wants to improve the system for GP appointment bookings - he says he personally, as the father of two small boys, has experienced problems with that. He's also concerned about Medway Hospital and the "privatisation and fragmentation" that have affected the service.

  102. 'My priority'

    Mark Reckless says "my priority above all" is to improve the NHS in "this constituency" - Rochester.

  103. More Farage

    Mr Farage singles out Labour several times, saying he won't allow Labour to tell people what UKIP thinks about the NHS. And with that, he introduces UKIP MP - and of course, ex-Tory - Mark Reckless.

  104. 'NHS quest'

    Nigel Farage

    On the subject of health tourism, Nigel Farage says people coming into this country need to have health insurance, just as British people would if they went overseas. He says he is on "a quest to have better value for money" in the NHS.

  105. 'Free at the point of access"

    "The National Health Service matters to me absolutely hugely," Mr Farage says. "UKIP is committed to an NHS free at the point of access and paid for out of taxation, full stop." But saying all that doesn't mean we can't be critical of some aspects of it, he adds.

  106. UKIP speech

    The UKIP health policy event is just getting started. Here's Nigel Farage - a man "who's life has been saved three times by the NHS", his introduction says.

  107. Post update

    Joey Jones, deputy political editor, Sky News

    Tweets: PM's spokesman refuses to say the David Cameron has confidence in Malcolm Rifkind as chair of Intelligence and Security Committee

  108. 'Looking very shaky'

    Norman Smith

    BBC Assistant Political Editor

    There's a humongous question mark about whether the TV debates will actually take place. Today's news is just the running order the broadcasters would like to see happen. I'd say it's looking very shaky indeed for several reasons. Chiefly the fact that David Cameron wants the debates - if they happen at all - to take place in March rather than April, because he says that otherwise they knock the wind out of the sails of the rest of the campaign. Another big issue is the fact that the DUP has not been included and is threatening legal action if the debates go ahead without them.

  109. 'Serious questions to be answered'

    More from Sir Alistair Graham. With respect to Jack Straw and the work he said he could do for the firm, Sir Alistair said: "The issue is, is that private work being done with parliamentary facilities? Which is against the rules."

    He also added: "We saw Sir Malcolm [Rifkind] saying he was self employed - he can do as he would like - when of course that is not true." Mr Rifkind has previously said that was a "silly" thing to say.

  110. Jack Straw allegations

    "I think there are some serious questions to be answered in Jack Straw's case," Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, tells the BBC. Mr Straw denies any wrongdoing.

  111. Post update

    Paul Waugh, PoliticsHome.com editor

    Tweets: NB David Cameron still not definitively signed up to TV debates. What's announced today is 'proposed order' by broadcasters

  112. Bit more on TV debates

    Despite this announcement, it's still unclear whether the TV election debates will take place. You might remember that earlier this month the Democratic Unionist Party said it intended to seek a judicial review of the BBC's decision to exclude it from the televised general election debates.

  113. Election debates line-up

    Those seven parties, of course, are the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, UKIP, the SNP, the Green Party and Plaid Cymru.

  114. BreakingBreaking News

    News just in: Election debates order confirmed. On 2 April, seven party leaders will debate on ITV. Then on the BBC, on 16 April, the same seven will again appear on screen together. Finally, Channel 4 and Sky News will hold a debate on 30 April between just Labour's Ed Miliband and Prime Minister David Cameron.

  115. Post update

    BBC Breaking News

    UK party leader #GE2015 #TVdebates confirmed for ITV - 2 April, BBC - 16 April, Sky/Channel 4 - 30 April

  116. Robin Brant - BBC political correspondent

    @robindbrant

    Ex-UKIP councillor Rozanne Duncan was roundly condemned on Sunday by Nigel Farage for what he called racist comments. But she's still talking... this morning to LBC radio. BBC political correspondent Robin Brant has been listening to her appearance.

    He tweeted: Asked what would she do if she saw a black person she said 'I just don't want to look. It's really quite strange'. #UKIP

    He also tweeted: Asked if she thought @Nigel_Farage would win Thanet south at #ge2015 she said 'not if I can help it', adding 'don't get mad get even'.

  117. Jack Straw clip

    Here's a quick recap of Jack Straw's position, when he spoke to BBC News earlier. He said he had "acted with complete probity and integrity throughout [his] parliamentary career". Click here to watch a video of him.

  118. Jim Pickard - chief political correspondent for the Financial Times

    @PickardJE

    Tweets: Of 180 MPs with additional jobs, 112 are Tories. 43 are Labour. 15 are Lib Dems. #telegraph

  119. Joey Jones - deputy political editor, Sky News

    ‏@joeyjonessky

    Tweets: Mood of Tory tearoom? 1 MP: "lots of anger" at Telegraph ("+ their hands are hardly clean") + Ch 4. Colleagues "glad Rifkind pushing back."

  120. 'Distrust over our political class' - Green Party

    Natalie Bennett

    The leader of the Green Party has responded to the "cash for access" story. Natalie Bennett said: "These latest allegations further cast the shadow of distrust over our political class. It's right that Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind have referred themselves to the authorities, but the damage to public trust in politics is likely to be great. The influence of big business in politics is corrosive, and seems to run through the veins of the entire political establishment. That's why we need real change now. Fulltime MP's should only have one job: representing their constituents. That's why the Green Party would end second jobs for MPs. The close ties between our parliamentarians and the multinational commercial healthcare industry, the oil and gas sector, and the financial sector, among others, are grave cause for concern."

  121. 'Embarrassing' revelations

    Justin Welby

    On the revelation that some jobs in the Church of England are paying below the living wage - despite its calls for businesses to adopt it - the Archbishop of Canterbury has admitted they are "embarrassing". But, Justin Welby also said the church had been clear the "move towards" having the living wage paid across all parishes, cathedrals and diocese was a gradual process which would take time.

  122. 'Politics demands clarity'

    "The British people need to know that when they vote they are electing someone who will represent them directly, and not be swayed by what they may owe to the interests of others" - so says Ed Miliband in his letter to the prime minister on the subject of MPs having second jobs.

    "The low levels of trust in politics demands clarity and I urge you to follow my lead in banning paid directorships and consultancies. There have been too many scandals about conflicts of interest in recent years. It is time to draw a line under this and ensure these current allegations are the last."

  123. Robin Brant - BBC political correspondent

    @robindbrant

    Tweets: Costing of #NHS policies and practicality of measures an issue for @UKIP though as it tries to broaden policy appeal

  124. Robin Brant - BBC political correspondent

    @robindbrant

    Tweets: Nigel, Suzanne, Louise and Mark in Rochester today for big #UKIP push on health. Two more set piece policy speeches to come I'm told.

  125. Post update

    BBC Radio 4 Today

    Watch former Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw defend himself over 'cash for access' allegations

  126. Tony Blair: 'No-one more dedicated'

    Tony Blair

    Former prime minister Tony Blair said: "I have known Jack [Straw] for over 30 years. He is a byword for being a hard-working constituency MP and parliamentarian. I can think of no-one who has more dedicated himself to public service. I am really sorry he has been caught up in a sting operation about a job offer after he retires from Parliament. It is typical of Jack that as soon as he was alerted of the sting against him he immediately contacted the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and asked her to investigate the case. I hope that the Commissioner will clear his name as soon as possible."

  127. Post update

    David Singleton, news editor, PoliticsHome.com

    Tweets: As @paulwaugh points out today, big winners from the latest cash for access scandal are Ukip, SNP and Greens

  128. Post update

    Tom Watson, Labour MP

    Tweets: Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Straw/Rifkind story, the rules governing the ISC need to be tightened

  129. Rifkind: 'Angry and irritated'

    Malcolm Rifkind

    The other person involved in the 'cash for access' allegations is Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who told the BBC he will be "hugely irritated and angry" when he watches the programme later.

  130. Post update

    Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror associate editor,

    Tweets: Decent, hardworking MPs(and there are many) hate these lobbying scandals most. Feeds cynicism, undermines politics

  131. Jack Straw footage

    Channel 4's Dispatches, which will be aired tonight, used a hidden camera to film the meeting between former foreign secretary Jack Straw and a fictitious Chinese firm. This is a still from their footage. He denies any wrongdoing.

    Jack Straw
  132. 'Older people pay their fair share'

    In his speech later, David Cameron will insist that no-one can say older people have not paid their fair share towards deficit reduction. "Of all the difficult decisions we have taken in government, the biggest saving we've made is raising the age of retirement... The fact is, if something happens to you when you're old, or to your income, you can't so easily change your circumstances like younger people can. You can't as easily move house, or change job, or go full-time. You need to know support is always there for you - and that's another reason why I want to protect these benefits."

  133. Bours on NHS

    Louise Bours, UKIP's health spokesman, has outlined plans to invest an extra £3bn in frontline NHS services. Speaking to BBC Breakfast ahead of the party's first big policy launch of the general election campaign, she dismissed the idea of an insurance-based system.

  134. 'We don't want you in government'

    The Sun

    Voters have delivered a "huge snub to Nigel Farage's UKIP", writes the Sun, by declaring: "We don't want you in government." The tabloid has published the results of an exclusive YouGov, which suggests that more than half of Britons want David Cameron and Ed Miliband to rule out any post-election deal which would bring UKIP into No 10.

  135. The comeback of John Prescott

    The Daily Mail

    In his usual acerbic way, Daily Mail columnist Quentin Letts has written piece out the comeback of John Prescott to front-line politics. He writes: "Aged 76, he has been invited by Ed Miliband to join Labour's high command after it romps to victory in May's general election (that's Baldrick's cunning plan, anyway)... The thinking behind this move, we are told, is that veteran class-warrior Prescott connects (one almost hesitates to use that verb) with the voters, particularly those who have been melting away from Labour in recent months."

  136. PM's 'most contradictory' announcement

    As we've mentioned, David Cameron will promise today to keep free TV licences and bus passes for elderly people, as well as winter fuel allowances, if re-elected. The director of the think tank Reform, Andrew Haldenby, is unimpressed: "I think the Conservative commitment today is completely contradictory to the main thrust of their economic policy.

    "It does not target welfare as they've promised, in fact, it puts welfare in the hands of pensioners who don't need it. It does not protect the long term public finances because as the population ages, these commitments become all the more expensive.

    "So I think these announcements are the most contradictory and in these terms, the worst announcements of the Conservative general election campaign so far."

  137. Ed Miliband letter on MPs' second jobs

    Norman Smith

    BBC Assistant Political Editor

    Labour leader Ed Miliband is writing to the prime minister urging him to bar MPs from having second jobs. Labour are already committed to banning their MPs from taking second jobs by the time of the next election. Labour MPs will only be able to take up outside employment that pays up to a maximum of 15% of their Commons salary. Mr Miliband will urge David Cameron to match that commitment.

  138. Analysis

    Norman Smith

    BBC Assistant Political Editor

    Many people looking at this story will think, 'Here we go again.' How many lobbying stories like this have there been? And while no parliamentary rules may have been breached, what matters is how this looks to the general public. People will think, 'You are paid a decent salary to work as my MP. Why are you looking for outside interests?'

  139. Sally Bundock - BBC presenter

    @SallyBundockBBC

    Tweets: #HSBC blames 'challenging year' as annual profit falls 17%. I'll have the details in 2 mins @BBCWorld TV.

  140. James Landale - Deputy political editor for BBC News

    ‏@BBCJLandale

    Tweets: Ch4 letter to Rifkind: "We will...include your clarification that you were not offering access to any privileged or secret information."

  141. A bit of background on 'cash for access'

    This isn't the first sting of its kind - or the first time politicians have been accused of taking money in return for access to the corridors of power. This piece looks at some previous examples.

  142. Pensioners 'poorest in country'

    BBC Radio 4 Today

    Mark Harper

    Mark Harper, Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions, has explained more about the Conservatives' decision to once again protect universal benefits for pensioners if they win May's general election.

    He told Radio 4's Today programme: "Most young people would want to know that their grandparents are properly protected in their old age... And the prime minister's announcement today is about making sure needs are properly protected."

    He also said that pensioners - as a group - were among the poorest in the country.

  143. More from Straw

    "I have never, ever, ever misused contacts or information I made while I was foreign secretary," he says. "There is an argument to be had about whether MPs should have second jobs. My position was not about what I was doing now, it was about what I was going to do when I finish [being an MP]."

  144. 'Taken out of context'

    BBC Radio 4 Today

    Jack Straw told Radio 4's Today programme that he had reported himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards "because of the way that this appears". "I am mortified by the fact that I fell into this trap... very skilful trap". He added: "If you have what you think is a private conversation you use language that is not wrong, but could be taken out of context." He also insisted: "I have declared every penny I've earned."

  145. BreakingBreaking News

    BBC Radio 4 Today

    "There are very, very strict rules about what members of Parliament can and can't do... and I have absolutely kept not only to their letter but also to their spirit," Jack Straw says.

  146. Post update

    BBC Radio 4 Today

    Former Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw says: "I am mortified that I fell into this trap."

  147. Coming up

    BBC Radio 4 Today

    Very shortly, we're expecting Jack Straw to speak to the Today programme about the cash for access story. Remember you can listen by clicking the live tab above.

  148. More on 'cash for access' allegations

    Malcolm Rifkind

    Here's a bit more from Sir Malcolm Rifkind when he appeared on Radio 4's Today programme earlier, he said: "Many ex-ministers, former chancellors, home secretaries, prime ministers, as well as other people, have served on advisory boards" and he insisted it was "entirely proper".

    "This is something which Parliament has said is acceptable," he added, and there were "about 200" MPs who had business interests. Indeed, many members of the public did not want "full-time politicians".

    "If you are trying to attract people of a business or a professional background to serve in the House of Commons, and if they are not ministers, it is quite unrealistic to believe they will go through their parliamentary career being able to simply accept a salary of £60,000. That sounds a lot to a lot of people earning less than that but the vast majority of people from a business or professional background earn far, far more than that. If they are told they have to choose one or the other they just won't come to the House of Commons at all and Parliament will lose their skills."

  149. Post update

    Telegraph Politics

    Tweets: MPs can't live on £60k a year, says Sir Malcolm Rifkind

  150. Church criticised over living wage

    The Church of England pays some staff less than the living wage - despite calling on employers to pay at least that amount - it has been revealed. The living wage, calculated from the basic cost of UK life, is currently £7.85 an hour outside London. But the Sun newspaper reports a Church job advertised at £6.50 an hour - something Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke called "astonishing". The Church said each parish, diocese and cathedral was a separate legal entity which made its own decisions. Get the full story here.

  151. Post update

    Tim Montgomerie, Conservative blogger and Times columnist,

    Tweets: Big legal brain Dominic Grieve explains why he'll be voting to stop abortion by gender

  152. Sex-selective abortions

    Elsewhere today, MPs might be voting to clarify the law on banning sex-selective abortions. The government says it is already against the law, but the British Medical Association has said the operations are sometimes justified. It's an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill, led by the MP for Congleton, Fiona Bruce, which has been signed by more than 100 MPs.

  153. Pensioner plans

    BBC Radio 4 Today

    On Tory plans to protect the older among us from cuts, Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, says there inevitably have to be "really quite significant cuts on the non-pensioner side to keep everything on the pensioner side". He's also asked about Labour's promise that they would take away the winter fuel allowance from pensioners earning more than £42,000 a year. "That would save only around £100m a year which in context, is almost lost in the rounding," he said.

  154. NHS privatisation? 'Not a whiff' - UKIP

    Louise Bours

    Answering a question on rumours that UKIP wanted to privatise the NHS, UKIP MEP Louise Bours said: "Absolutely not looking at privatisation. There will be no privatisation. Not a whiff. The NHS must be funded entirely from taxation."

    She also said that "health and social care should be merged into one". "Cutting the bureaucracy and administration, we can make sure that everybody gets what they deserve," she added.

  155. Rifkind: 'No negotiations'

    BBC Radio 4

    Sir Malcolm Rifkind: "I had involved myself in no negotiations." He added that when he watches Channel 4's programme tonight about the allegations he would be "hugely irritated and angry because I've got nothing to be embarrassed about".

  156. Rifkind on cash for access claims

    BBC Radio 4

    Sir Malcolm Rifkind - who was secretly recorded saying he didn't get a salary - goes on: "It was a silly thing to say... It could be misleading, yes, if you read it out of context." He gets paid an MP's wage, but said he was referring to his business interests when he discussed not getting a salary.

  157. 'Unfounded allegations'

    BBC Radio 4

    "These are very serious allegations and they are unfounded and I am going to fight them with all my strength," Sir Malcolm Rifkind tells the Today programme.

  158. Post update

    Sun Politics

    Tweets: PM promises elderly: Your free perks are safe with us: More here

  159. Voting age concerns in Scotland

    A House of Lords committee has criticised the plan to transfer power from Westminster to Holyrood to enable 16 and 17-year-olds to vote. The proposal has the backing of all the political parties involved in the Smith Commission. But the House of Lords Constitution Committee said it had concerns about the way the process was being handled and the impact in the rest of the UK. The criticism was dismissed by both the UK and Scottish governments - and 16 and 17-year-olds did, of course, vote in last year's Scottish independence referendum. Get the full story here.

  160. Labour and child protection

    Other political titbits about today include Labour's shadow secretary Yvette Cooper explaining what Labour would do to improve child protection if elected. The party is expected to release Freedom of Information data suggesting "huge increases in demand for police attendance at child protection meetings". Then later, Ms Cooper's boss Ed Miliband will outline policies on arts and culture at Battersea Arts Centre.

  161. UKIP's health policy

    Yesterday, UKIP were making headlines for the wrong reasons after Nigel Farage spoke out to condemn his party's ex-councillor Rozanne Duncan for racism. But today he'll be hoping to shift the attention back to policy. Mr Farage is expected to make a speech later (11:00 GMT) setting out his party's health policy which would include an extra £3bn of annual spending. He is also expected to say he would scrap hospital parking charges, tuition fees for medical students and the health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission.

  162. On now

    BBC Radio 4

    We're keeping a watchful ear across BBC Radio 4's Today programme so you wont miss anything, but you can listen too by clicking on our live tab above.

  163. Register to vote

    For those of you that haven't done so already, don't forget to register to vote if you want to take part in the 7 May general election. It takes about five minutes to do, and you will need your national insurance number.

  164. Analysis: 'Cash for access' row

    Eleanor Garnier

    Political correspondent

    These are very serious allegations about two extremely prominent MPs. All MPs work under a code of conduct and that includes their outside interests - any relationships they have with business and other organisations. They are not allowed to be paid advocates, i.e. they cant lobby for money. Both Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind deny doing anything wrong.

  165. 'Cash for access' claims

    Away from the election campaign, a story which is likely to attract debate is the allegation that two former foreign secretaries - Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind - have been secretly filmed apparently offering their services to a private company for thousands of pounds. The men are the subject of the allegations, arising from a joint investigation by the Daily Telegraph and Channel 4's Dispatches. The documentary makers said reporters posed as staff of a fake Chinese firm. The MPs have referred themselves to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. Both deny any wrongdoing. Read the full story here.

  166. Today's front pages

    If you've got a spare 10 minutes, why not have a browse of today's front pages. The gulf in earning power between the UK's high-earners and its lowest paid is laid bare in Monday's headlines. For example, the Daily Mirror reports Trades Union Congress' analysis suggesting that more than five million workers are paid less than £7.85 an hour. It prints a list of top 10 "worst pay black spots", where as many as 53% of people earn less than the figure campaigners consider a "living wage".

  167. Cameron speech on universal benefits

    David Cameron

    Here's quick precis of another big story of the day - David Cameron's speech later in which he's set to say that universal benefits for pensioners will once again be protected if the Conservatives win May's general election. Mr Cameron has kept his 2010 election promise not to introduce means testing for benefits such as bus passes, TV licences and the winter fuel allowance. Get the full story here.

  168. Clegg speech on prisons

    Nick Clegg

    Top of Monday's schedule is a big speech from Lib Dem deputy prime minister Nick Clegg on crime and justice. He's expected to say that thousands of people are being jailed unnecessarily in England and Wales, and a future Lib Dem government would push for the roll-out of "diversion and liaison services" - which intervene in the early stages when vulnerable offenders are first identified. He will also call for an evidence-based approach to do "what works" to cut crime, not just "to sound tough" or "play to the gallery".

  169. Good morning

    Hello and welcome to another day in the pre-election battle. Victoria King and Dominic Howell will bring you all the action, reaction and analysis in text and you'll be able to watch and listen to all the main BBC political programmes, from Today and Breakfast through to the Newsnight and Today in Parliament. Here's how Sunday unfolded.