Britain's ruling Labour Party has suspended three ex-ministers over claims that they were prepared to influence policy in exchange for cash.
Geoff Hoon, Stephen Byers and Patricia Hewitt were suspended after a television documentary secretly filmed them seemingly offering lobbying services for payment.
"The Labour Party expects the highest standards of its representatives and believes that they have a duty to be transparent and accountable servants to their constituents at all times," a Labour party statement commenting on the suspensions said on Monday.
Undercover footage in the Channel 4 documentary showed Byers, a former transport minister, saying he could be paid as a "cab for hire".
He said he could be hired for $7,474 a day in exchange for access to ministers, secret government information and advice on influencing policy.
Byers boasted to the undercover journalist he had made a secret deal with Andrew
Adonis, the current transport minister, over the termination of a rail franchise contract.
Both the rail firm, National Express, and Adonis denied this.
He also claimed Peter Mandelson, the business minister, had amended food labelling regulations after he intervened on behalf of a supermarket giant.
Mandelson said he had "no recollection" of having talked to Byers about the issue.
Byers has since insisted he "exaggerated" his influence and has retracted his claims, adding that he had "never lobbied ministers on behalf of commercial interests".
Hewitt and Hoon, who seemed to suggest in the documentary they would charge about $4,500 a day for their services, have also denied wrongdoing.
The Labour party said Margaret Moran, a party legislator, was also suspended after the programme.
Gordon Brown, the prime minister, has rejected calls for a government investigation into the lobbying scandal as he fights to contain the damaging row in the run-up to elections expected on May 6.
The lobbying row is just the latest scandal to tarnish the reputation of Britain's legislators after damaging revelations that many of them were abusing the parliamentary expenses system.
In a separate development on Monday, the BBC said it had uncovered
widespread abuse of parliamentary rules by members of parliament who had
accepted free overseas trips from foreign governments.