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HomeUK NewsPM accused of 'Tory sleaze', bidding to save ex-minister from suspension

PM accused of ‘Tory sleaze’, bidding to save ex-minister from suspension

It is understood that the prime minister will support the effort by backbench Conservatives in a likely Commons vote on Wednesday afternoon

Ex-Conservative cabinet minister Owen Paterson is facing a 30-day ban from the House of Commons for breaching lobbying rules as a result of his paid consultancy work on behalf of two different companies. But Tory MPs are now seeking to save him from his immediate suspension from Commons.

It is understood that Boris Johnson will back a bid to save a Conservative former cabinet minister from an immediate suspension as part of an overhaul to the MPs’ standards rules.

Ex-Conservative cabinet minister Owen Paterson is facing a 30-day suspension from the House of Commons for breaching MP lobbying rules due to his paid consultancy work on behalf of two different companies.

But Mr Paterson has strongly denied the allegations against him and a group of his Tory Party colleagues are now seeking to establish a new Commons committee in order to reconsider his case.

It is understood that the prime minister will support the effort by backbench Conservatives in a likely House of Commons vote on Wednesday afternoon.

Ex-cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom, and a former leader of the House of Commons, has already secured the support of over 50 Tory MPs for an amendment to a Commons motion on Owen Paterson’s suspension, which will now also be supported by the country’s government.

This comes after two councils in England represented by Tory ministers have received money under the government’s flagship “levelling-up” fund despite being among the least deprived of local authorities nationwide. The health secretary Sajid Javid’s constituency of Bromsgrove got £14.5m in the first announced tranche of cash under the scheme.

The group of Conservative MPs backing Ms Leadsom’s amendment was already likely to have been large enough to win a Commons vote in order to pause Mr Paterson’s suspension even without the support from the government.

The Labour Party has accused Boris Johnson of encouraging government ministers to “vote for a return to the worst of the 1990s Tory sleaze culture”.

Thangam Debbonaire, the shadow leader of the Commons, said that: “A vote for this amendment would turn the clock back to the era of Neil Hamilton, cash for questions and no independent standards process.”

But a government source has said that concerns about the MP’s standards system had been “bubbling away for a while” and that Owen Paterson’s case was “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

“The fact that this amendment has been tabled by a former leader of the House and has attached as many signatures as it has, shows the amount of concern about the standards process,” they added.

“It has to be taken seriously.”

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Ms Leadsom’s amendment, if approved within a House of Commons vote later on Wednesday, would see the creation of a new Commons committee.

With a Conservative majority and led by Tory ex-cabinet minister John Whittingdale, the nine-person committee would then review the current standards system and consider whether or not the case against Mr Paterson would need to be rethought.

Last month, Mr Paterson was found to have “repeatedly used his privileged position” to benefit Randox, which is a clinical diagnostics company, and Lynn’s Country Foods, which is a meat processor and distributor.

The allegations against the MP for North Shropshire, who was the nation’s environment secretary from 2012 to 2014, relate to his conduct between the period of time between October 2016 and February 2020.

Following a two-year investigation Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, said that Mr Paterson had breached rules prohibiting acts of paid advocacy by making multiple approaches to government departments and ministers for the two companies.

This comes after over 100 countries that are representing 85% of the world’s forests will commit to stopping and reversing deforestation by the year 2030 in a “significant breakthrough” on the road to tackling the global climate crisis.

In a lengthy statement, within which he declared that he was “not guilty”, the 65-year-old also said that he was raising serious issues about food contamination in his contact with officials.

And he claimed that the investigation had “undoubtedly played a major role” in his wife, Rose Paterson, taking her own life in June of last year.

On Wednesday, Treasury minister John Glen told Sky News that there was “a matter of concern around the procedure” through which Ms Stone’s investigation had reached its conclusions.

“I think most people would agree, when there is a dispute over someone’s conduct there has got to be fair and due process before an outcome and a determination of the consequences is made,” he said.

“I think that’s the area the House of Commons, across all parties, will want to look at today.”

Eve Cooper
Eve Cooper
I've been writing articles and stories for as long as I can remember and in the past few years I've had the fortune of turning that love & passion for writing into my job :)

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