FM says Tory MPs’ defence of former minister is ‘classic corruption’

Owen Paterson was found to have repeatedly lobbied ministers and officials for companies paying him more than £100,000 a year.

FM says Tory MPs’ defence of former minister is ‘classic corruption’ Parliament TV

Nicola Sturgeon has described the actions of Conservative MPs in protecting a former minister from being suspended over an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules as “classic corruption”.

It comes after Tory MPs on Wednesday voted against the immediate suspension of former cabinet secretary Owen Paterson, instead opting to overhaul the Commons’ disciplinary process.

The cross-party Standards Committee had called for a six-week ban from Parliament for Paterson, the Conservative MP for North Shropshire, after it found he repeatedly lobbied ministers and officials for two companies paying him more than £100,000 per year.

But, his colleagues on the Conservative benches backed an amendment calling for a review of the case after they were ordered to support the bid under a three-line whip.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had questioned whether the investigation into Paterson was fair.

Following the vote in the Commons, from which 13 Conservative MPs defied the Whip, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner accused the Tories of being “rotten to the core”.

On Thursday, the UK’s business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng suggested that Kathryn Stone, the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, should resign in light of Conservative MPs voting to overturn her judgement that Paterson should be suspended.

He told Sky News: “I think it’s difficult to see what the future of the commissioner is, given the fact that we’re reviewing the process, and we’re overturning and trying to reform this whole process, but it’s up to the commissioner to decide her position.”

On Twitter, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon indicated that the events on Wednesday marked a “dark day for the Commons”.

“This is classic corruption – protecting the MP found guilty of a standards breach and now trying to hound the independent investigator out of office,” the First Minister wrote.

“Yesterday was a dark day for the Commons – but also a reminder of the risks this Tory govt poses to basic democratic norms.”

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain MP said: “The Conservatives are governing like the mafia.

“They are targeting those who uphold the rules rather than those who break them.

“These shameful attempts to drag the Standards Commissioner through the mud have to be called out for what they truly are – an attack on our democracy.”

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