Tory sleaze row: Boris Johnson says colleagues misled him over cross-party support for Paterson case

Boris Johnson accepted Owen Paterson did break lobbying rule but said colleagues had misled him over the cross-party support to block the former Tory MPs suspension

Boris Johnson said he was misled by his colleague over the cross-party support for the move to block Owen Paterson;s suspension (Credit: PA)

Boris Johnson has said that Tory colleagues of his misled him over the projected cross-party support for the attempt to block the suspension of former MP Owen Paterson.

The Prime Minister faced a hard day of questioning over the sleaze row, coming up against the Liaison Committee of senior MPs who asked about his conduct during the incident.

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Johnson had instructed MPs not to vote for the immediate suspension of Owen Paterson - who had been recommended to serve a 30 day suspension after being found to have broken lobbying rules. MPs were also instructed to vote for a reform to the parliamentary disciplinary procedures.

The incident cause a row within the House of Commons, with accusations that the blocking of Paterson’s suspension was a return to “Tory sleaze”.

Despite since admitting that his conduct during the Paterson row was a “mistake”, Johnson has not yet apologised for his attempted to block the suspension.

At a glance: 5 key points

  • Owen Paterson was found to have broken lobbying rules in parliament and was recommended to serve a 30 day suspension
  • Boris Johnson had been criticised by opposition parties and the public for instructing Tory MPs to vote against the immediate suspension of Owen Paterson following his breaking of lobbying rules, and to vote in favour of a reform to the disciplinary procedure
  • Despite the backlash, Johnson has refused to apologise for the incident however the Conservatives did perform a u-turn in their attempts to block the suspension and Paterson resigned from his post
  • Speaking at the Commons Liaison Committee, Johnson admitted that his decision to instruct Tory MPs to vote against the suspension and for a reform was a “mistake”
  • However, he has said that he took that decision after being misled by his colleague who he said had suggested that there was cross-party support for the move

What did Boris Johnson say?

Despite not offering an apology for initially blocking Paterson’s suspension, Johnson admitted that Paterson had in fact broken the rules, saying: “I think it was a very sad case but I think there’s no question that he had fallen foul of the rules on paid advocacy as far as I could see from the report.

“The question that people wanted to establish was whether or not given the particularly tragic circumstances he had a fair right to appeal.”

When questioned by the Liaison Committee, Johnson again admitted that he regretted the way that he had handled the Paterson situation and the fallout from it.

He said: “The intention genuinely was not to exonerate anybody, the intention was to see whether there was some way in which, on a cross-party basis, we could improve the system,” Mr Johnson said.

“In retrospect it was obviously, obviously mistaken to think we could conflate the two things and do I regret that decision? Yes I certainly do.”

However, the Prime Minister took the chance to tell the committee that he was under the impression that there was cross-party support to reform the procedure.

He said: “I believed that there would be cross party support for the idea…

“It was put to me by colleagues that people would feel… and indeed I was fortified in this by the reflection that many people would have felt this was a particularly difficult and sad case.

“I’m very willing to accept I was mistaken in that belief.”

Will there be a vote on MPs’ second jobs?

The Paterson incident has caused debate around MPs’ second jobs, with the Labour Party tabling a motion to review the rules to not allow serving MPs to take jobs as paid lobbyists or political consultants.

Johnson has added to this, saying that there should be a ban on any additional job which takes up too much time of a sitting MP.

MPs will vote on the motion at 7pm tonight (17 November).

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