“Shameful and wrong”: Sir John Major criticises Boris Johnson over Owen Paterson row

The Government has been widely criticised following the move to try and block the suspension of Owen Paterson over paid lobbying

Former Prime Minister Sir John Major has condemned Boris Johnson’s handling of the Owen Paterson scandal as “shameful” and “wrong”.

Sir John’s comments come as the Government faces severe criticism from across the political spectrum over the plans to try and prevent Paterson from facing a 30-day suspension as a result of paid lobbying.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • Sir John Major, who served as Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997, has described the Government’s handling of the Owen Paterson row as “shameful” and said it has ‘trashed’ Parliament’s reputation
  • Sir John said the way Johnson’s administration has behaved has “a whiff of ‘we are the masters now’ about it”
  • North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson was found to have committed ‘egregious’ acts of paid political advocacy on several occasions, on behalf of two firms which paid him over £100,000 per year in total
  • The cross-party standards committee backed the report and recommended that Paterson be suspended for 30 sitting days, which could have lead to a by-election
  • The Government told Conservative MPs to back plans in Parliament put forward by Andrea Leadsom which would prevent Paterson from being suspended and replace the existing standards committee with a new body led by Conservative MPs

What’s been said?

Sir John Major said: “I think the way the Government handled that was shameful, wrong and unworthy of this or indeed any government. It also had the effect of trashing the reputation of Parliament.”

Referring to a series of ‘sleaze’ scandals which blighted his time as PM, Sir John said: “When that happened I set up the Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life to stop it, which has been a huge success.

“The striking difference is this: in the 1990s I set up a committee to tackle this sort of behaviour.

“Over the last few days we have seen today’s government trying to defend this sort of behaviour.

“Sleaze is unacceptable, was unacceptable when I was there, and I suffered a great deal of pain and anguish over it.

“It’s unacceptable today, and it needs to be stopped.”

Tammy Banks, one of the non-MPs to sit on the Standards Committee, said she had been “appalled” by “slanderous” attacks on Ms Stone.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Week In Westminster: “She works hard, she does her best and above everything else she is fair.”