Owen Paterson: Birmingham MPs react to government U-turn
A report found that the North Shropshire MP had ‘repeatedly used his privileged position’ to benefit Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods
Birmingham MPs have been reacting to the government’s U-turn on the decision to block the suspension of Owen Paterson and immediately overhaul the disciplinary procedures for MPs in response to a public backlash.
Shropshire MP Mr Paterson has now resigned from his post following controversy surrounding his suspension from the House of Commons being blocked.
The North Shropshire MP resigned from his role after a vote in the House of Commons, which blocked his suspension on the grounds of paid lobbying, was met with outrage from opposition parties.
What did Owen Paterson do?
Paterson had been found to have breached parliamentary code after lobbying for two companies who had paid him as a consultant.
He is accused of sending a number of emails to the Food Standards Agency and the Department for International Development on behalf of the two companies which paid him more than £100,000 per year between them.
The Committee for Standards recommended that Paterson serve a 30 day suspension from the House of Commons.
Former Commons Leader, Andrea Leadsom, submitted an amendment to the motion of Paterson’s suspension and called for an overhaul of the disciplinary investigation procedure, which passed after a three-line whip effectively mandating that Conservative MPs vote in favour.
On Thursday morning, Boris Johnson and the government U-turned on the decision to block the suspension after a fierce backlash.
Paterson’s decision to resign will trigger a by-election.
Paterson denies wrongdoing and has criticised the way the investigation was carried out, attributing it as a major factor in the suicide of his wife last year.
He says that the commissioner failed to interview several witnesses he put forward, although they did take written evidence from them.
The former North Shropshire MP said in his resignation statement that he was “totally innocent” and that he was “unable to clear my name under the current system.”
How Birmingham MPs reacted
Speaking to BirminghamWorld, Northfield MP Gary Sambrook, said the inquiry which determined that Mr Paterson had broken lobbying rules needed more scrutiny.
He said: “It’s very clear that the standards report falls short of what most people would deem fair, or expect in their own work place.
“Given these short comings, and taking into account the significant personal circumstances which are involved in this case, in respect of the suicide of Owen’s wife, I felt this report needed further scrutiny.
“That process could have very well concluded in the same way, which I would have accepted and expected the sanction to be put in place.
“It now seems, because opposition parties are refusing to take part in that scrutiny a by-election will take place and so it will be up to the voters of North Shropshire to make their decision.”
Birmingham Erdington MP, Jack Dromey, criticised the Prime Minister following the scandal.
He said: “Sleaze pollutes democracy and undermines public confidence. To add insult to injury, Boris Johnson, instead of standing up for high standards in public life, attempted a cover-up of clear wrongdoing by Owen Paterson.”
Posting on Twitter, Yardley MP Jess Phillips disputed the assertion that the government had wanted to review the disciplinary investigation procedure for a long time prior to the Owen Paterson inquiry.
She said: “I am one of the MPs who has been heavily involved in last five years in the standards procedures in Parliament. Been in every debate which before yesterday were usually pretty sparsely attended. Lots has changed and been improved in that time.
“The assertion yesterday and today by Government ministers and MPs that for ages they have wanted to review the process and implement appeals has in my memory never ever been pushed for or even barely mentioned.
“Listening to Kwasi Kwarteng this morning saying otherwise was a surprise to hear because for one I’ve never seen him in any of the meetings, and it’s simply not been the case. The government can’t plead employment standards for MPs one day and refuse them on maternity/paternity or disabled MPs during covid on another.”
She later tweeted about the government’s U-turn: “I see the briefing attempts to exonerate the PM and make out it was all someone else’s fault are underway with some massive lies and time travel thrown in.
“Just like Paterson should of, the best thing to do at this stage would be to own up to the mistake honestly and fully.”
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