Owen Paterson: Boris Johnson U-turns on controversial review of MP’s lobbying suspension

MP Owen Paterson’s suspension was blocked following a vote by fellow MPs, but the Prime Minister has now U-turned on the decision to overhaul the disciplinary process.

Boris Johnson has dramatically U-turned on the decision to block MP Owen Paterson’s suspension and overhaul the disciplinary process.

It follows after widespread outrage following the vote in the House of Commons on Wednesday [3 November].

The Government will halt immediate plans to overhaul the disciplinary process following the backlash to the vote which had been previously backed by the Prime Minister and passed in the House of Commons.

At a glance: 5 key points

  • MP Owen Paterson had been suspended from the House of Commons after being found to have committed “egregious” breach of lobbying rules after breaking paid advocacy rules by lobbying for companies he had been paid more than £100,000 per year to advise
  • Paterson had claimed that the investigation process, led by Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone, had not “complied with natural justice” and played a part in the suicide of his wife in 2020
  • The Standards committee - which includes cross-party members - upheld the decision made by Stone, recommending that he serve a 30 day suspension from the House of Commons
  • Former Commons Leader, Andrea Leadsom, then proposed an amendment to the motion to suspend Paterson and reform the entire disciplinary process for MPs which passed by a majority of 18 votes following a three-line whip effectively mandating that Conservative MPs vote in favour.
  • The decision caused outrage across opposition parties who criticised the decision to not suspend Paterson and refused to participate in a “corrupt” Tory-led committee who would undertake the review

What has been said?

Following the backlash to the vote passing, Commons Leader, Jacob Rees-Mogg said he would now seek “cross-party” changes to the system while also suggesting that any changes to the process may not “apply retrospectively”.

He said: “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.

Commons Leader, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said that there would now be a “cross-party” changes to the system in a U-turn to Wednesday’s vote. (Credit: Getty)Commons Leader, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said that there would now be a “cross-party” changes to the system in a U-turn to Wednesday’s vote. (Credit: Getty)
Commons Leader, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said that there would now be a “cross-party” changes to the system in a U-turn to Wednesday’s vote. (Credit: Getty)

“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.”

Shadow Commons Leader, Thangam Debbonaire, said: “Last night, they voted to allow corruption to take place unimpeded at the heart of British politics.

“Any other result will allow Boris Johnson to create one rule for Tory MPs, another for everyone else.”

Mark Harper, a Conservative MP who rebelled against the vote, described the original decision to block Paterson’s suspension and overhaul the process as “one of the most unedifying episodes” he has seen during his time in parliament.

He said: “My colleagues should not have been instructed, from the very top, to vote for this. This must not happen again.”

What happens next?

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House, has now approved an application for a three-hour emergency debate of the disciplinary system for MPs to take place on Monday.

Tory MP, Angela Richardson, had been sacked as a parliamentary secretary to Michael Gove after she abstained in yesterday’s vote. Following the U-turn, Richardson stated she was “pleased to be re-appointed” to her position.

Government sources have also suggested that Paterson may face a fresh vote on his suspension at a later date.

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