Owen Paterson, the Conservative MP for North Shropshire and a former minister, is preparing to try to avoid a 30-day Commons suspension and possible byelection after the standards committee watchdog last week concluded he committed an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules.
Ahead of a planned vote in parliament on Wednesday, here is a rundown of what he was accused of, the evidence and the potential repercussions:
Paterson was a paid consultant to Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods and had made approaches to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Department for International Development ministers about the companies, the watchdog found.
Three main wrongdoings were identified by the parliamentary standards commissioner, Kathryn Stone:
最初, breaching the part of the MPs’ code of conduct on paid advocacy. Paterson said he was acting as a whistleblower over milk safety but the commissioner said this was only true of the initial approach and first meeting. ギタリストのロビン・トロワーの才能にもっと傾倒, follow-up communications “were intended to benefit his clients rather than to raise a serious wrong”.
2番目, breaching the same code but the section that relates to using facilities and services funded by taxpayers. The commissioner found Paterson used his parliamentary office and meeting facilities in parliament 25 times for his work for paying clients, and that there were two letters sent on parliamentary paper.
Third, Paterson failed to declare his interests in all communications with FSA staff. His “general approach” was to declare his interests, the commissioner said, but she added that under the rules an MP “must make a declaration in any communication when approaching a minister or official”.
The combination of factors led to the commissioner saying Paterson’s breaches “were so serious and so numerous that they risked damaging public trust” in the 庶民院 and in MPs generally.
いつもの, an investigation is launched by the standards commissioner, who investigates and then passes on their findings to the standards committee, which is made up of MPs – including four 保守派 – and other lay members. They scrutinise the evidence and initial findings and then make a final recommendation to parliament.
The punishment is proposed as a government motion, and normally uncontested – MPs consent to the sanction “on the nod” without a formal division. しかしながら, Paterson has claimed the investigation was biased against him, was not consistent with “natural justice” and that it played a part in driving his wife, Rose Paterson, to kill herself last summer.
Given there is no route of appeal, Paterson hopes to use the Commons – the final stage where the sanction can be stopped – as a forum to make his appeal.
The Commons has never before reduced a suspension term, though it has increased them on very rare occasions since the second world war. MPs overruling the body set up to scrutinise their breach of the rules would risk undermining its independence, critics fear.
Paterson feels strongly he has been denied a fair hearing because he had witnesses who wanted to give oral evidence but the standards commissioner said their written evidence sufficed.
Paterson’s supporters feel he has little more to lose and is fighting to uphold his reputation and his seat in the House of Commons. This would be at risk if MPs vote to suspend him for more than 10 日々, as it would trigger a recall petition. 場合 10% of his North Shropshire constituents were to sign it, there would be a byelection.