Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle ‘fears Commons will be brought into disrepute’ if MPs block lobbying row suspension for ex-minister Owen Paterson

  • Ex-Cabinet minister Owen Paterson facing 30-day suspension from Parliament
  • A standards probe found he had breached House of Commons rules on lobbying
  • Mr Paterson blasted way the probe was conducted and denies any wrongdoing
  • MPs will vote tomorrow on whether to approve the recommend suspension
  • But some Tories are planning to try to vote down the damning standards report
  • Lindsay Hoyle believes rejecting report would bring Commons into disrepute 

Sir Lindsay Hoyle fears MPs will bring the House of Commons into disrepute if they block a 30-day suspension from Parliament for an ex-minister found to have breached lobbying rules. 

MPs will vote tomorrow on whether to approve the findings and recommended sanctions of a standards probe into Owen Paterson. 

Senior Tory MPs are planning to try to overturn the report but Sir Lindsay is said to believe this would cause significant damage to the standards system.

Reports and recommendations brought forward by the Commons Standards Committee are usually approved as a formality.  

Sir Lindsay Hoyle fears MPs will bring the House of Commons into disrepute if they block a 30-day suspension from Parliament for an ex-minister found to have breached lobbying rules.

An investigation by Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone found Mr Paterson repeatedly lobbied ministers and officials on behalf of two companies for which he was acting as a paid consultant – Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods.

The Commons Standards Committee said his actions were an ‘egregious’ breach of the rules on paid advocacy by MPs and recommended that he should be suspended for 30 sitting days.

But Mr Paterson, who has denied any wrongdoing, rejected the commissioner’s findings, accusing her of making up her mind before she had even spoken to him.

He said he had been the victim of a ‘biased process’ which ‘offends against the basic standard of procedural fairness that no-one should be found guilty until they have had a chance to be heard and to present their evidence including their witnesses’. 

Mr Paterson said the manner in which the investigation was carried out had ‘undoubtedly’ played a ‘major role’ in the decision of his wife Rose to take her own life last year.

If the 30-day suspension from Parliament is approved then Mr Paterson’s North Shropshire constituents would be able to petition for a by-election.  

But senior Tories are planning an unprecedented bid to overturn the verdict of the standards watchdog.

The Times said Sir Lindsay has told friends that a failure to approve the suspension would damage the standards system. 

A source told the newspaper: ‘Lindsay is concerned that voting this down would do the House real reputational damage.’  

Meanwhile, Chris Bryant, the Labour MP who chairs the standards committee, said: ‘Voting or watering down this sanction would do serious reputational damage to parliament and would open politics up to a new scandal of paid lobbying by MPs.’   

In her report, Ms Stone found that between November 2016 and November 2017 Mr Paterson made three approaches to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) relating to Randox – a clinical diagnostics company – and antibiotics in milk in breach of the ban on paid advocacy.

He was also found to have made four approaches to ministers at the Department for International Development relating to the company and blood testing technology between October 2016 and January 2017.

And Mr Paterson was found to have made seven approaches to the FSA between November 2017 and July 2018 relating to Lynn’s Country Foods.

MPs will vote tomorrow on whether to approve the findings and recommended sanctions of a standards probe into Owen Paterson

The commissioner further found that he failed to declare his interest as a paid consultant to Lynn’s Country Foods in four emails to FSA officials and that he used his parliamentary office for business meetings with his clients on 16 occasions between October 2016 and February 2020.

He also sent two letters relating to his business interests, on House of Commons headed notepaper – the only breach of the rules which he accepted.

In its report, the committee recommended that a motion to suspend Mr Paterson should be tabled for MPs to debate and vote on within five sitting days.

‘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,’ it said.

However, in a defiant statement the MP said the process to which he had been subjected did not comply with natural justice.

He said he had been pronounced guilty without being spoken to by the commissioner and that 17 witnesses who came forward to support him were ignored.  

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