Owen Paterson vows to clear his name after Tory MPs block suspension

Owen Paterson: Kay Burley quizzes Anneliese Dodds on Labour

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The former Cabinet minister was found to have breached lobbying rules in his paid consultancy work on behalf of two companies, who between them paid him more than £100,000 a year. But, in an unprecedented move, Boris Johnson ordered Tories to back a move to overhaul the rules on MPs’ behaviour – effectively protecting Mr Paterson from a 30-day Commons ban. Labour, the SNP and Lib Dems voted against the plan along with 13 rebel Tory MPs.

It was passed by 250 votes to 232 following a heated Commons debate. A further 98 did not record a vote.

There were cries of “shame” and “what have you done to this place?” as the result was announced.

Mr Paterson, 65, yesterday ­maintained the case against him was not fair.

He said: “All I have ever asked is to have the opportunity to make my case through a fair process.

“After two years of hell, I now have the opportunity to clear my name.”

The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone last month recommended Mr Paterson be suspended from the Commons for 30 days. It followed a damning report into his conduct by a committee of MPs.

The report said the former Northern Ireland Secretary had breached Commons lobbying rules by making approaches to ­government bodies ministers about Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods, firms that employed him as a paid consultant. The cross-party Standards Committee backed the original sanction unanimously. It includes seven lay members and three Tory MPs.

Before yesterday’s vote, the committee’s Labour chairman Chris Bryant told MPs Mr Paterson had lobbied ministers “time and again, in a way that conferred a direct benefit on his paying ­clients”. He said Mr Paterson was given “every opportunity” to put his case across, and that his case was heard “respectfully and fairly”.

The Standards Committee found that the North Shropshire MP had used his parliamentary office on 16 occasions for meetings relating to his outside business interests.

He also sent two letters relating to business interests on House of Commons headed notepaper. It described the MP’s actions as “an egregious case of paid advocacy”.

Some 246 Tories were listed among the 250 MPs who backed yesterday’s motion to block his suspension.

But several Conservatives defied the whip – including former chief whip Mark Harper.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “Sometimes to do the right thing one has to accept a degree of opprobrium.” Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner accused the Tories of being “rotten to the core”.

Mr Paterson denied any wrongdoing, and argues his approaches were within the rules because he was seeking to alert ministers to defects in safety regulations.

He said the investigation was “a major contributory factor” in the death of his wife Rose, chairman of Aintree racecourse. The 63-year-old took her own life last year.

Mr Paterson claimed he was pronounced guilty “without being spoken to” and that “no proper investigation was undertaken”.

A spokesman for Ms Stone said she will not quit. A Commons suspension has to be approved by MPs. If MPs had backed the ban, Mr Paterson would have been subject to a recall petition.

This could have seen a by-election in his constituency.

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