Owen Paterson: Tory MP guilty of an 'egregious' breach of lobbying rules saved from suspension 9 months ago

Owen Paterson: Tory MP guilty of an 'egregious' breach of lobbying rules saved from suspension

Labour have accused the PM of reincarnating the 'worst of 1990's sleaze culture', after Tory MP saved from a 30-day suspension

The Tories have voted to save Conservative MP Owen Paterson from an immediate 30-day suspension from the House of Commons. 

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The former minister 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".

The report also found Paterson's lobbying exploits amounted to nearly three times his annual parliamentary salary.

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Paterson has temporarily avoided suspension after two Tory MPs filed amendments to save him.

The Leadsom amendment, backed by the government, claimed Paterson had not seen a fair process and the entire system would need an overhaul - thus negating the need for Paterson's immediate suspension. 

Speaking in the Commons, Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg said: "The suicide of his wife is a greater punishment than any House of Commons committee could inflict."

He added: "mercy is essential to justice".

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Chairman of the standards committee, Chris Bryant, says he has "known suicide in my own family" offering his sympathies to Paterson.

"I know the grief, the anguish and often the guilt that is associated," adding "this last year must have been very distressing for him."

The Labour MP said that despite Paterson's personal situation, the charges were "very serious" and he had yet "to meet a Conservative MP who has not said to me 'he clearly broke the rules'. I think that includes the Leader of the House."

Bryant said Paterson "did the one thing he was banned from lobbying - lobbying ministers time and again in a way that conferred a direct benefit on his paying clients".

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He continued, saying: "that is expressly forbidden. It is a corrupt practice."

Paterson had been facing a 30-day-suspension from the House of Commons after it was revealed he'd worked as a paid consultant for Lynn's Country Foods, a meat processor, and Randox, a clinical diagnosis company.

Randox Laboratories were controversially awarded around £475m by the government to manufacture covid-19 test kits in July 2020, despite having no prior experience in the field.

Following a two-year investigation, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards found Paterson had made multiple approaches to government departments and ministers for the two companies.

Harriet Harman, the Mother of the House said: "The reputation of the House is easily damaged and once damaged, hard to restore.

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"What we must not do is make the rules and then decide to set them aside when we have misgivings about the outcome."

Today's amendment will set up a new select committee to examine the parliamentary system to standards and to recommend whether Paterson's case should be reviewed.

As it stands, Paterson will not be suspended from the House of Commons today.

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