Embattled Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind is to step down as MP for Kensington at the general election, saying the 'cash for access' allegations exposed by a Dispatches and Telegraph sting, have left the local Tory party in a state of "serious uncertainty".
He will also stand down as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, although he will remain a member.
In a statement, the MP, who has represented Kensington since 2005, said:
I have received tremendous support from my constituency association and from many constituents in Kensington over the last two days.
However, I have been pondering whether it is fair to my colleagues and friends in Kensington to remain the prospective Conservative candidate for the forthcoming general election.
I warmly welcome the committee that has been established by the Party to examine the controversy with which I have been associated and to report by the end of March on its conclusions. It will be an excellent opportunity for an objective assessment of the allegations that have been made and I will be happy to cooperate closely with the committee.
However, it is unlikely that it will be able to finish its deliberations until well into March and there, obviously, can be no certainty as to its conclusions.
I am conscious, therefore, that Kensington Conservatives are faced with serious uncertainty until the end of March as to whether I will be able to be their candidate. If I could not they would have little time to choose a new candidate.
I am also aware that even if the Committee reach a favourable conclusion as to these allegations the controversy will remain during what is certain to be a heated general election and, indeed, for many months thereafter until the parliamentary commissioner for standards has completed the necessary enquiry. I had intended to seek one further term as MP for Kensington, before retiring from the House of Commons.
I have concluded that to end the uncertainty it would be preferable, instead, to step down at the end of this parliament.
This is entirely my personal decision. I have had no such requests from my constituency association but I believe that it is the right and proper action to take.
As regards the allegations of Channel 4 and the Daily Telegraph I find them contemptible and will not comment further at this time.
Although I will retire from parliament I shall continue my public and political life and am much looking forward to doing so over the years to come.
His decision leaves one of the safest Conservative seats in the country open — Rifkind had a majority of 8,616 at the last election.
In a statement, the Conservative Party said: "Sir Malcolm has had a long career of distinguished service both to the Conservative party and the country. We respect and support his decision to stand down."