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New lobbying scandal hits British parliament

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron waits at Downing Street to meet Columbia's President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon in London June 6, 20
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron waits at Downing Street to meet Columbia's President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon in London June 6, 20

LONDON (Reuters) - A lobbying scandal that has tarnished the reputation of Britain's parliament widened on Sunday after a newspaper secretly filmed a senior lawmaker from Prime Minister David Cameron's party making what is said were improper remarks.

A series of media sting operations has already thrust the issue into the limelight and forced one lawmaker, Patrick Mercer, to resign from the ruling Conservative Party.

Three members of Britain's upper house of parliament have also been covertly filmed offering to ask parliamentary questions, lobby ministers and host events in exchange for cash.

In the latest covert recording, Tim Yeo, a former minister and the chairman of a powerful parliamentary energy committee, appeared to admit he had told a representative of a firm that is a subsidiary of a company he is paid to work for, what to say in front of his own committee.

Such conduct does not break rules which forbid lawmakers from taking cash for questions, but the Sunday Times newspaper said it had also got Yeo on camera explaining "how he could secretly help push private business in parliament for cash".

Yeo said he "totally rejected" all the allegations.

"The Sunday Times has chosen to quote very selectively from a recording obtained clandestinely during a conversation of nearly an hour-and-a-half in a restaurant with two undercover reporters, who purported to be representing a client from South Korea," he said in a statement.

Shaken by such scandals, the coalition government has promised to bring forward tighter rules in the coming weeks to ensure lobbying is more transparent.

Lobbying has the potential to become an embarrassing issue for Cameron.

He said before the 2010 general election that it was "the next big scandal waiting to happen," saying:

"It's an issue that crosses party lines and has tainted our politics for too long, an issue that exposes the far-too-cozy relationship between politics, government, business and money."

(Reporting By Andrew Osborn; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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