Owen Paterson: MPs vote to overturn suspension
And another Conservative MP reportedly told a member of the House of Lords the situation was “a shambles”. Mr Paterson was last week found by the cross-party Standards Committee to have committed an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules on behalf of two companies for which he was acting as a paid consultant – Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods.
The MP for North Shropshire, who could have faced recall proceedings which may in turn have triggered a by-election if the recommended six-week suspension had been approved by the Commons, vehemently denied the charges against him.
Instead, the Commons on Wednesday backed a Tory amendment calling for a review of Mr Paterson’s case after Conservative MPs were ordered by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to support the bid, which squeaked through by 250 votes to 232 – meaning large numbers of Tory MPs abstained.
Behind the scenes, Tories revealed their deep uneasiness at participating in a process which Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described as “corruption”.
One named MP contrasted the decision to the Government’s insistence just weeks ago that they could not change rules retrospectively to allow voters to recall Rob Roberts, who was suspended over sexual misconduct allegations.
Boris Johnson and Owen Paterson in the Commons
Boris Johnson addresses the House of Commons
Mr Roberts, previously the Tory MP for Delyn in North Wales, had the whip withdrawn in light of the claims.
The MP told Politico: “The trouble is that it isn’t tenable to say we have to fix the process today when we apparently didn’t for Rob Roberts.”
Tory peer Lord Hayward said one Tory MP who voted with the Government on Wednesday had later sent him a text message using the word “shambles”.
Lord Hayward told Times Radio: “I’ve yet to find a clear explanation to how they’ve got themselves in this mess, and they have gotten themselves in a mess.”
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Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s leader, said the situation amounted to “corruption”
He said he had “no doubt” it would have an impact on Conservative voters, but added: “I think it’ll probably be short-term, but it will have an impact on Boris Johnson’s rating, because this is the sort of thing which a number of voters actually have a suspicion about him, and the way he behaves, in what they would view as a somewhat cavalier manner in relation to natural justice.”
He added: “I think it is damaging to the Tory Party but sadly, it’s also damaging to MPs. Because the public at large will sadly say, well, this is typical of all MPs, and that’s just not the case.”
Meanwhile one Conservative employee claimed there was “utter disillusionment” among Tory friends, with some uncertain whether they could even vote for the party the next election because they were “sick of the Tory party condoning sleaze”.
Conservative MP Angela Richardson also confirmed she is no longer a parliamentary aide to ministers after her decision to abstain on the amendment.
Ms Richardson, who was elected to represent Guildford in 2019, wrote on Twitter: “I abstained on the #LeadsomAmendment today aware that my job was at risk, but it was a matter of principle for me.”
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Angela Richardson is one of the Tory MPs who abstained
The House of Commons yesterday
Initially appointed a parliamentary private secretary (PPS) for education ministers, Ms Richardson was then recently for Communities Secretary Michael Gove.
Mr Gove could be seen sharing a few words with Ms Richardson in the Commons chamber during a later vote.
Writing in the Guardian, Sir Keir said: “That the Tories are yet again wallowing in sleaze comes as no surprise.
“From the pathetic attempts to defend Dominic Cummings when he breached lockdown to David Cameron’s rebirth as a super-lobbyist, this government has always chosen to lay down with the dogs.
“The blase manner in which it acts, the Trump-like attempts to fix the system to its own benefit, the complicity of those who justify and enable it, shows that it is now, inevitably, covered in fleas.
Boris Johnson’s Cabinet
“I am sick of people skirting around calling this out for what it is: corruption.”
The committee ruled Mr Paterson, 65, repeatedly lobbied ministers and officials for the two companies, which paid him more than £100,000 per year.
After the vote, he said: “The process I was subjected to did not comply with natural justice.
“No proper investigation was undertaken by the commissioner or committee.
“The Standards Commissioner has admitted making up her mind before speaking to me or any witnesses.”
Micheal Gove, Minister for Intergovernmental Relations
He added: “All I have ever asked is to have the opportunity to make my case through a fair process.
“The decision today in Parliament means that I will now have that opportunity.
“After two years of hell, I now have the opportunity to clear my name.”
Addressing Mr Johnson himself, Mr Paterson said: “I am extremely grateful to the PM, the Leader of the House and my colleagues for ensuring that fundamental changes will be made to internal parliamentary systems of justice.
“I hope that no other MP will ever again be subject to this shockingly inadequate process.”
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