Commons' standards system plunged into chaos after Paterson vote
Who IS policing MPs now? ‘Lame duck’ standards commissioner is investigating EIGHT politicians for potential breaches of Commons rules including ministers Therese Coffey and James Cleverly – with three of them voting to tear up the system
- Tory MPs won a vote to block the suspension of Owen Paterson from Commons
- Also voted in favour of a major overhaul of the Commons standards watchdog
- Vote plunged the current watchdog into chaos amid questions over its future
The House of Commons’ standards watchdog has been plunged into chaos and is facing major questions about its future after Tory MPs voted to block the suspension of Owen Paterson.
Tory MPs won a controversial vote in the Commons yesterday afternoon to review Mr Paterson’s case and to overhaul the current standards system.
The move has sparked complete chaos, with the current system for regulating MPs’ behaviour in tatters.
Opposition parties have vowed to boycott a new Government-backed committee which is supposed to be making recommendations on how to improve the existing process.
There have also been Tory calls for the current Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone, to quit.
The turmoil means it is unclear what will happen to the eight politicians, including Cabinet minister Therese Coffey, who are currently being investigated by the Commissioner.
Three of the MPs who are under investigation – Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly, Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski and Tory MP David Warburton – voted in favour of overhauling the system.
The other MPs currently under investigation, according to the watchdog’s website, are Tory MP Ian Liddell-Grainger and Labour MPs Chi Onwurah, Jo Stevens and Barry Gardiner.
The fact that an investigation is taking place does not mean that Commons rules have been broken.
Ms Stone has indicated that she has no intention of resigning but the long term future of the current standards system is uncertain.
The House of Commons’ standards watchdog has been plunged into chaos after Tory MPs voted to block the suspension of Owen Paterson and overhaul the system. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone, has indicated she has no intention of resigning
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey and Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly are among eight MPs currently under investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards
A total of eight MPs are currently under investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey
Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly
Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski
Tory MP David Warburton
Tory MP Ian Liddell-Grainger
Labour MP Chi Onwurah
Labour MP Jo Stevens
Labour MP Barry Gardiner
Former minister Mr Paterson, the Tory MP for North Shropshire, was found to have committed an ‘egregious’ breach of standards rules by directly advocating for two companies while they were paying him more than £100,000 per year.
Ms Stone conducted an investigation and the Committee on Standards then recommended Mr Paterson be banned from the Commons for 30 sitting days.
Mr Paterson has angrily disputed the findings of the standards report, claiming the investigation was unfairly conducted.
MPs were due to vote on the suspension yesterday afternoon but allies of Mr Paterson brought forward an amendment to block the suspension and see his case reviewed.
The amendment, which was passed by 250 votes to 232, will also create a new committee with a Tory majority which will make recommendations for a shake-up of the current standards process.
The vote was won after Boris Johnson told Tory MPs to vote for the amendment as opposition parties and 13 Tory MPs opposed the move.
Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats have all vowed to boycott the new committee, meaning it risks being seen as Tories ‘marking their own homework’.
There have been Tory calls for Ms Stone to quit and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said this morning that she should ‘decide (on) her position’.
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.’
Pushed on what he meant by ‘decide her position’, Mr Kwarteng said: ‘It’s up to her to do that. I mean, it’s up to anyone where they’ve made a judgment and people have sought to change that, to consider their position, that’s a natural thing, but I’m not saying she should resign.’
Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski (pictured left) and Labour MP Barry Gardiner (pictured right) are also among the eight MPs currently being investigated
Labour has accused the Government of ‘trying to bully the Standards Commissioner out of her job’.
Responding to Mr Kwarteng’s comments, shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire said: ‘Having already ripped up the rules policing MPs’ behaviour to protect one of their own, it is appalling that this corrupt Government is now trying to bully the Standards Commissioner out of her job.
‘Boris Johnson must immediately distance himself from these latest attempts to poison British politics. And all decent people of all political beliefs must stand against these naked attempts by Tory MPs to avoid scrutiny of their behaviour.’
Labour MP Chris Bryant, the chairman of the Committee on Standards which oversees the Commissioner’s work and considers her reports, said yesterday that the committee will continue to meet.
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