Owen Paterson: Government U-turns less than 24 hours after MPs block fellow Tory's suspension

THE government has U-turned over the controversial blocking of a Tory MP’s suspension as claims of ‘corruption’ swirl around Westminster.

Thursday, 4th November 2021, 2:22 pm
Former cabinet minister Owen Paterson in the House of Commons, London, as MPs debated an amendment calling for a review of his case after he received a six-week ban from Parliament over an "egregious" breach of lobbying rules. Picture date: Wednesday November 3, 2021.

Downing Street yesterday backed a shake-up of the standards watchdog and blocked the suspension of one of its own former ministers, Owen Paterson.

Tory MPs across the area, including Penny Mordaunt, Caroline Dinenage and Suella Braverman, were among those to back the motion.

But the controversial action by the government sparked a furious backlash in Westminster, with Tories accused of ‘corruption’ and of ‘governing like the mafia’.

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Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP

Now MPs – who must sign off any sanction – will now vote again on Mr Paterson' recommended 30-day suspension.

It follows an announcement by leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Moggs, who said that efforts to overhaul parliament's standards rules should not be ‘conflated’ with an ‘individual case’.

This was despite Mr Rees-Mogg having previously written to all Tory MPs to encourage them to back a bid to change disciplinary processes that was explicitly linked to an attempt to save Mr Paterson from an immediate suspension.

The situation has enraged Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who told Sky News: ‘What’s happened in the last 24 hours is corrupt. There’s no other word for it, I’m afraid.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan Picture: Chris Moorhouse (060619-20)

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‘In order to protect one of their own, the government of the prime minister voted to pull the entire standards process down.

‘It’s no wonder that this morning that they are waking up and asking themselves what on Earth they have done.

‘What you have got with this prime minister is a prime minister who is leading his troops through the sewer.

‘It is a complete mess of their own making.’

Portsmouth North MP Ms Mordaunt said has since defended her vote and the government’s change of position.

The cabinet minister told The News: ‘I have no issue with the committee on standards, or their report into Owen Patterson – which I have read. Some have criticised its findings and its investigation but I have not.

‘MPs from across the House think there should be the right to an appeal and the vote last night would have let cross party discussions happen to develop that.

‘That work should not be linked to any case. The vote has not blocked the sanction of the committee set out for Owen Patterson. Their findings still stand and the Commons will vote to agree them.’

Havant MP Alan Mak has no vote record. Ms Dinenage and Mrs Braverman have not responded to questions from The News.

Labour’s Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP, was outraged by the vote on Wednesday, which ignored a recommended month-long Commons suspension of Mr Paterson.

He said: ‘I am deeply disappointed but not surprised that local Tories supported efforts to lower standards in public life, ripping up a 300 year old system to hold MPs to account.

‘This is not just a Westminster village story, it’s important for our country’s democracy and trust in politicians.

‘If you care about MPs’ actions and behaviour, you’ll be concerned that Tory sleaze is back.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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