A Tory sleaze scandal has “disgraced Parliament and given the green light to corruption”, says Chesterfield MP, Toby Perkins.
Owen Paterson MP, the Member of Parliament for Shropshire North who has now resigned in the wake of the scandal, was investigated by the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards for breaking lobbying rules for MPs. Mr Paterson accepted tens of thousands to lobby on behalf of two companies on a total of fourteen occasions, with the cross-party Standards Committee describing Mr Paterson’s actions as “an egregious case of paid advocacy”.
MPs are not allowed to make representations of behalf of organisations who have paid them, and Mr Paterson’s attempt to claim that each of these fourteen breaches relied upon extraordinary circumstances was dismissed by both the independent standards commissioner and by a cross party committee of MPs.
The Committee had recommended Mr Paterson be suspended from Parliament for 30 days, but Conservative MPs pushed a vote to scrap the Committee’s report and change the rules so that Mr Paterson’s case would be considered again by a new panel of MPs made up of a majority of Conservative MPs.
Toby said, “What Owen Paterson did was found to be a breach by an independent commissioner and by a committee with Tory MPs on it, and so for the government to attempt to overrule that verdict and absolve their friend is disgraceful.
The Tories have a big majority and with that majority comes a huge responsibility to operate in a fair way- that is a responsibility that this government seems to regularly abuse.
In the face of the wave of public revulsion, the Prime Minister subsequently backed down and Mr Paterson has now resigned, but that shouldn’t alter people’s recognition that this is a government of people willing to alter the rules to protect their own. The last Tory government was eventually brought down by their sleazy standards and it appears that this one is entirely careless about operating in the same way.
Toby added, “I know that my constituents, who are facing rising food prices and energy bills, seeing their benefits reduced or facing significant tax rises, will be angered that Tory politicians are enriching themselves and trying to change the rules whilst everyone else is struggling.”