Boris Johnson to back bid to overturn Owen Paterson lobbying inquiry

Standards in Public life should be sacrosanct – not to be cherry picked to justify sleaze – Owl

According to the Guardian, Boris Johnson will back an unprecedented bid to overthrow an independent inquiry that found the former cabinet minister Owen Paterson committed an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules.

Tory MPs will be instructed by party whips on Wednesday to avoid imposing an immediate 30-day suspension on their colleague by backing a motion that argues the initial probe by the parliamentary standards commissioner was flawed. Instead, a new committee would be set up to review the evidence.

Whether the amendments are selected will be a matter for the Commons Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle. He will announce on Wednesday afternoon which – if any – will be voted on when MPs begin a 90-minute debate on the report into Paterson released last week.

Here are the Committee on Standards in Public Life conclusions that led to their recommended sanctions.

The Committee’s conclusions and recommended sanctions

The Committee commented that it does not doubt that Mr Paterson sincerely believes that he has acted properly. Mr Paterson is clearly convinced in his own mind that there could be no conflict between his private interest and the public interest in his actions in this case. But it is this same conviction that meant that Mr Paterson failed to establish the proper boundaries between his private commercial work and his parliamentary activities, as set out in the Guide to the Rules. The Committee concluded that being able to judge the difference between one’s private, personal interest and the public interest is at the very heart of public service and a senior member of the House with many years standing should be able to make that distinction more clearly.

In accordance with normal practice, before considering sanctions the Committee noted any aggravating or mitigating factors in the case. Aggravating factors included:

  • 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.
  • Mr Paterson’s financial remuneration from Randox and Lynn’s amounted to nearly three times his annual parliamentary salary.
  • Mr Paterson’s actions demonstrate a failure to uphold the Seven Principles of Public Life.
  • Mr Paterson has made serious, personal, and unsubstantiated allegations against the integrity of the Commissioner and her team.
  • Mr Paterson is a former Minister, and an experienced long-serving Member of the House.

The Committee also noted mitigating factors, including:

  • Mr Paterson’s wife took her own life in June 2020. The Committee consider it very possible that grief and distress caused by this event has affected the way in which Mr Paterson approached the Commissioner’s investigation thereafter.
  • In respect of the breaches relating to use of his parliamentary office, Mr Paterson had suffered a period of ill health which made him less able easily to leave the parliamentary estate.
  • Regarding the breaches of paid advocacy rules, Mr Paterson has an evident passion for and expertise in food and farming matters which, in itself, is admirable, as long as it is channelled within the rules of the House.

The Committee determined that Mr Paterson’s actions, in particular those relating to paid advocacy, constitute a serious breach of the rules.

The Committee found that Mr Paterson’s actions were an egregious case of paid advocacy, that he repeatedly used his privileged position to benefit two companies for whom he was a paid consultant, and that this has brought the House into disrepute.

In line with previous cases of a similar severity, the Committee recommends that Mr Paterson be suspended from the service of the House for 30 sitting days.

As the Government Deputy Chief Whip confirmed on 9 September 2021, it is the usual practice for the relevant motions to be tabled by the Government and debated as soon as possible. The Committee recorded its expectation that this should be within five sitting days of the publication of the report.

One thought on “Boris Johnson to back bid to overturn Owen Paterson lobbying inquiry

  1. I am sure a good many MP’s and ministers would like a friendlier and less outspokenly critical Committee on Parliamentary Standards to be put in place before revelations begin to emerge concerning their actions in connection with Covid 19. Even those unlikely themselves to come under fire might want to minimise expected damage to the reputation of our parliamentary system.

    Like

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