Local MPs defend blocking suspension of colleague accused of paid lobbying

Both Borders MPs have moved to defend their decision to effectively block the suspension of fellow Conservative Owen Paterson.

Friday, 5th November 2021, 10:11 am
Borders MPs John Lamont and David Mundell.

Mr Paterson, who was the MP for North Shropshire before he decided to quit yesterday to be “outside the cruel world of politics”, had been found to be in breach of paid lobbying rules in the House of Commons by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, an accusation which Mr Paterson denied.

On Wednesday, as MPs were meant to debate Mr Paterson’s 30-day suspension, Tory MPs, including John Lamont and David Mundell, voted instead for an amendment to delay the suspension and set up a new cross-party committee to decide new rules on the disciplinary process for MPs.

That sparked fury amongst opposition MPs and the few Tories who voted against this. But as prime minister Boris Johnson made a U-turn on the suspension debate yesterday, saying it would go ahead next week, it also angered other Tories who had toed the line originally.

Former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper, who voted against the amendment with 12 of his colleagues, said it was “one of the most unedifying episodes I have seen in my 16 years as a member of parliament”.

He added: “My colleagues should not have been instructed, from the very top, to vote for this.”

Speaking yesterday before Mr Paterson resigned, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP David Mundell said: "I voted in favour of the amendment on the grounds that the standards system, as it is currently constituted, has been revealed to have no right of appeal, which I am sure most people would consider an essential element of any process within or without the workplace.

"In order to ensure that the issues and the recommendations in the Standards Committee report are not conflated, a vote will now be held on the suspension of the MP in question and, separately, the reform of the standards system taken forward on a cross-party basis."

After the resignation, John Lamont, MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, said: “Mr Paterson’s decision to resign is the right one. It was my intention to vote for his suspension next week.

“Given the widespread concerns about the process by which MPs are investigated and the lack of a fair appeals mechanism, it is correct that the whole process is now reviewed on a cross party basis.”