Prime Minister backtracks on Owen Paterson suspension over lobbying for Sheffield United sponsor Randox
Boris Johnson has watered down controversial plans to overhaul the disciplinary process for MPs and review a senior Tory’s alleged breach of lobbying rules after widespread outrage.
Tory backbencher Owen Paterson was handed a six-week suspension last month for lobbying the Government on behalf of both healthcare firm Randox – which sponsors the shirts of Sheffield United – and food manufacturer Lynn’s Country Foods.
However, on Wednesday, the Government voted in favour of overhauling the standards process – which would see Paterson’s suspension blocked.
The amendment sparked a nationwide backlash, with the Tories being accused of “ripping up the rulebook” and “stitching up the standards system” in order to help one of their own MPs.
Today (November 4), in a Government “U-turn” in response to the backlash, Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said he would seek “cross-party” changes to the system after Labour and other opposition parties refused to take part in what it said would be a “corrupt” standards committee following the amendment.
And he suggested any changes may not “apply retrospectively”, meaning that the amendment would no longer enable Paterson’s suspension to be blocked.
Mr Rees-Mogg’s announcement to MPs came as an ethics adviser to the Prime Minister described Wednesday’s votes as a “very serious and damaging moment for Parliament”.
Lord Evans, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said plans for a Tory-led review into the disciplinary process for MPs as being “deeply at odds with the best traditions of British democracy”.
The Commons Leader recognised that standards must be reformed on a cross-party basis as he acknowledged “that is clearly not the case” with the Government’s proposals.
“While there is a very strong feeling on both sides of the House that there is a need for an appeals process, there is equally a strong feeling that this should not be based on a single case or apply retrospectively,” Mr Rees-Mogg said.
“I fear last night’s debate conflated an individual case with the general concern. This link needs to be broken.
“Therefore I and others will be looking to work on a cross-party basis to achieve improvements in our system for future cases. We will bring forward more detailed proposals once there have been cross-party discussions.”