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03rd Nov 2021

Angela Rayner exposes full extent of Tory ‘sleaze’ in devastating Owen Paterson jab

Ava Evans

The Labour deputy leader said the Tory party was ‘wallowing in sleaze’ while forcing the country into higher bills and tax rises.

Angela Rayner has attacked the prime minister over his support for an overhaul of MP’s standard rules – as the Conservatives look set to save one of their own from being suspended for breaching Parliament’s rules on lobbying.

The Labour deputy leader spoke out Wednesday as a debate got underway in the House of Commons over whether to suspend Owen Paterson.  The Tory MP has been found guilty of an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules and faces a 30-day suspension from the House.

Leading Prime Ministers Questions, Rayner said: “In no other profession in our country could someone be found guilty by an independent process and just have their mates vote them back into the job.”

Rayner accused the Tories of attempting to “change the rules to allow cash for access”, a move Labour believe would reincarnate the “worst of 1990s sleaze culture”.

She continued: “If it was a police officer, a teacher, a doctor, we would expect the independent process to be followed and not changed after the verdict.”

Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, asked Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees Mogg: “Does he think he would be standing here today making these changes if it were a Labour MP involved?”

Labour MP for Leeds East Richard Burgon said the suspension was a democratic issue, and if Paterson did not face immediate repercussions it would prove this was the “most corrupt government in modern history”.

Speaking on PoliticsLive, Shadow Housing Secretary Lucy Powell said: “I don’t know a single Conservative MP who doesn’t think Owen Patterson behaved wrongly and against the rules.

“I don’t know why they’re using all this political capital to defend someone whose acted in that way”

MPs are currently debating two amendments tabled by the Tories to save Paterson from suspension.

The first, the Leadsom amendment, supported by the government, calls for a new committee to be set up to consider changes to the current standards system. On Monday, Downing Street shot down a report from the Committee on Standards in Public Life that proposed changes to the current system. 

The second amendment, tabled by Julian Lewis, the Conservative chair of the intelligence and security committee, said “on compassionate grounds, that no further action be taken”. This is a reference to Paterson’s wife, Rose, who took her own life last year.

Paterson, who worked as a paid consultant for Lynn’s Country Foods, a meat processor and Randox, a clinical diagnosis company, was found to have “repeatedly used his privileged position” to benefit companies he worked for.

The committee had found “no previous case of paid advocacy has seen so many breaches or such a clear pattern of behaviour in failing to separate private and public interests”. 

Paterson’s lobbying exploits amounted to nearly three times his annual parliamentary salary, the report also found.

A Number 10 spokesperson said: “As in any normal workplace and all walks of life, people should be entitled to the right to appeal.

“This is sacrosanct in providing fairness and natural justice, and ensuring there is an opportunity to check due process and that the right procedures were followed.

“This isn’t about one case but providing MPs from all political parties with the right to a fair hearing.

Labour’s Lisa Nandy, speaking to Sky News, pointed out that under Tory legislation, a benefit claimant would not be entitled to right of appeal had they been fined for making a mistake and accused Conservative MPs of “the most appalling double standards”.

“In 100 years this has never happened where members of the House of Commons have tried to completely not just overturn a decision that’s been made by a parliamentary committee and by the independent standards commissioner.

“I’ve got constituents who make mistakes on their claim for Universal Credit who are hit with large fines with no right of appeal.

“And yet you’ve got an MP who’s found by a committee, with Tory MPs on it, to have broken the parliamentary rules, to have been lobbying for a private company and using his office to do so.

“Not only is he complicit in this double standards, but so are all of those Tories who are supporting this bid today. It’s incredible that they think they can do this without any repercussions.”

If the House votes to suspend Paterson, it would trigger a recall petition. If a mere 10 per cent of his constituents were to sign it, a byelection would be triggered.

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