The Conservative MP Owen Paterson has escaped suspension from the Commons for 30 days and a possible byelection, after the government intervened at the last minute to pause the process and review the watchdog that investigates wrongdoing in parliament.

The former cabinet minister was found to have committed an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules during meetings and conversations with the Food Standards Agency and Department for International Development, while he was being paid more than £100,000 by two firms – Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods.

However, an amendment to the motion to suspend him – proposed by the former Commons leader Andrea Leadsom – was backed by Boris Johnson, and whips told Tory MPs they should vote for it too.

'Cheating catches up with you': Angela Rayner pushes Johnson over Owen Paterson vote – video
‘Cheating catches up with you’: Angela Rayner pushes Johnson over Owen Paterson vote – video

The amendment was passed by 250 votes to 232, with 13 Tories opposing it and 98 either abstaining or given permission to be away from parliament. The MPs who voted against the amendment included former chief whip Mark Harper, ex-cabinet secretary Simon Hoare, and William Wragg, a member of the 1922 Committee executive.

The amendment means a new committee will be created, chaired by the Tory backbencher John Whittingdale, to look into changing the process under which MPs are investigated so that it is more considerate of “natural justice” by – for example – giving them the chance to appeal.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said: “We would expect the independent process to be followed and not changed after the verdict – it’s one rule for them, and one rule for the rest of us.”

Paterson claimed he was acting as a whistleblower to raise concerns about milk and bacon standards, and that 17 witnesses whom he wanted to give oral evidence were not able to.

However, several Tory MPs – including ministers – told the Guardian Paterson was “clearly over the line” and “guilty as sin”. The standards committee said the witnesses Paterson offered had their written evidence taken into account, and that their attempts to prove his motivations were well-intentioned were not relevant to the facts about which rules he broke.

The passing of Leadsom’s amendment means a committee chaired by Whittingdale, with four other Tory MPs, three from Labour and one from the SNP, will be set up and make recommendations about overhauling the standards commissioner role by 3 February 2022.

Chris Bryant, a Labour MP and chair of the standards committee, said the move would “be dismantling the rule on paid advocacy which has been around in some shape or form since 1695” and that the public would view it as parliament having “licensed cash for questions”.

“It is the very definition of injustice that one should change the rules or the process at the very last moment, and to do so for a named individual, which is what the amendment does today,” he said.

Peter Bottomley, a Conservative and the longest-serving MP, also confirmed he would oppose Leadsom’s amendment. In a heated debate on Wednesday, he said: “We chose the system we are now using. If we want to consider changing it, we do it in a proper way instead of considering it in the way we are now.”

Aaron Bell, a Conservative MP from the 2019 intake, expressed a similar view. He said: “Reform can only work if it’s across the house, and by bringing [Leadsom’s] amendment today it looks like we’re moving the goalposts.”

Leadsom said she was not “stitching anything up” and that her amendment was not about “whether Paterson is innocent or guilty” but the process used to investigate him.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, earlier said that Patterson’s wife taking her own life last summer was “a greater punishment than any House of Commons committee could inflict”. He quoted from Shakespeare on “the quality of mercy”, closing his remarks by saying: “The system must provide justice, tempered by mercy, for mercy is essential to justice.”

Labour MP Jess Phillips asked him if “he would be standing here today making these changes if it were a Labour MP involved?”

Rees-Mogg told her: “The answer is yes, I would have no hesitation if I thought an honourable member opposite had not had a proper process.”

Source: Guardian

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Lady of 81 Fulfills Her Childhood Dream Performing on Stage, Newspaper Reporter Meets Her at Exit – Story of the Day

81-Year-Old Lady Performing On Stage | Source: Flickr/John Edwards 2008 (CC BY-SA…

Victim Claims Epstein Told Her Bill Clinton ‘Likes Them Young’

A victim of Jeffrey Epstein’s claimed that the convicted pedophile told her…

Alexis Gabe missing update: Officials believe handwritten letters found might lead to woman’s body

The location of Alexis Gabe’s body may be revealed by handwritten messages…

Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas Jeffrey Clark, Former Justice Dept. Official

WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot issued…