Furious Tories slam Boris over Owen Paterson punishment vote U-turn

Furious Tories slam Boris Johnson for humiliating them with U-turn that reinstated MP Owen Paterson’s lobbying punishment vote – less than 24 HOURS after ordering them to vote to BLOCK it

  • Standards committee called for ex-minister Owen Paterson to be suspended from the Commons for 30 days 
  • A standards probe found he had breached rules on lobbying and asked House to rubber-stamp punishment
  • Boris Johnson ordered Tory MPs to back amendment pausing the process and called for overhaul of system  
  • But government has U-turned after massive outcry with Mr Paterson facing another vote on suspension 
  • He resigned from Commons tonight in move that avoids further humiliation and damage to the Conservatives

Boris Johnson was facing mounting fury from Tory backbenchers today after his humiliating U-turn on the Owen Paterson lobbying scandal less than 24 hours after forcing MPs to back plans to help the former minister avoid punishment.

One comparing the Prime Minister to the Grand Old Duke of York for ‘marching us up the hill’ on a whipped vote in support of changes to Parliament’s anti-sleaze regime before abandoning the proposal in the face of public fury.

Just 13 Tories defied the three-line whip demanding they support an amendment by Andrea Leadsom that would have halted Mr Paterson’s 30-day suspension for acting on behalf of two firms paying him more than £100,000 annually.

Some 250 supported the move last night before Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg this morning announced the government was dropping the plans following a huge backlash at the ‘politically-motivated’ decision.

To compound the situation, Owen Paterson this afternoon dramatically resigned after Boris Johnson withdrew his support and said he would have a new unwhipped vote on his punishment.

A senior Tory told MailOnline: ‘There will be a lot of angry MPs who gave way and voted for the Government. Marched up to the top of the hill… ‘ 

An ex-minister said there was intense frustration that the situation had been ‘badly handled’. ‘People are writing in, there is hostility on social media,’ the MP said. ‘We the party have taken an enormous hit for absolutely nothing.’

The opprobrium MPs faced over the vote was shown by Tory Peter Bone, who this morning told the Commons his constituency office was vandalised because of his support for Mr Paterson. The building had ‘Tory sleaze’ daubed on it.

Standards committee chair Chris Bryant, a Labour MP, had warned that retrospectively changing the system when an ally was under threat was ‘what they do in Russia’. Keir Starmer accused Mr Johnson of ‘leading his troops through the sewer’.  

One comparing the Prime Minister to the Grand Old Duke of York for ‘marching us up the hill’ on a whipped vote in support of changes to Parliament’s anti-sleaze regime before abandoning the proposal in the face of public fury.

Just 13 Tories defied the three-line whip demanding they support an amendment by Andrea Leadsom that would have halted Mr Paterson’s 30-day suspension for acting on behalf of two firms paying him more than £100,000 annually.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg announced the government has dropped plans for a retrospective overhaul of sleaze rules after a huge backlash at the ‘politically-motivated’ decision

A defiant Kathryn Stone (pictured) had indicated she would stay on as the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards for another year, despite the pressure from Mr Paterson’s camp


Tory Angela Richardson revealed last night that she had left her job as a ministerial aide over the vote. But after the dramatic U-turn by the PM this morning, the Guidford MP confirmed that she has got her role back

Guildford MP Ms Richardson (pictured in the Commons recently) said she had abstained in the standards amendment as a ‘matter of principle’  

Owen Paterson was found to have committed an ‘egregious’ breach of standards rules as he lobbied for two companies paying him more than £100,000 per year. Mr Paterson, pictured with his late wife Rose, claimed the ‘biased’ way the standards inquiry was carried out was a major factor in her suicide last year

What happens next after Boris Johnson’s humiliating U-turn on standards shake-up? 

Tory MPs won a vote yesterday to block the suspension of Owen Paterson and to overhaul the House of Commons’ standards system. 

But the Government has now announced a U-turn following a ferocious backlash. 

What has the Government U-turned on and what will happen next?

The Government has performed a U-turn on its decision to block the 30-day  suspension of Tory MP Owen Paterson from the House of Commons after he was found to have breached lobbying rules. 

A new vote on suspending Mr Paterson will be brought forward by the Government in the coming weeks after yesterday’s vote sparked widespread outrage. 

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg confirmed the U-turn this morning as he insisted ministers do still want to look at reforming the Commons’ standards process.

Mr Rees-Mogg said any changes to the system would need to be agreed on a cross-party basis but he admitted that after yesterday’s vote that would not happen. 

He said while there is a ‘very strong feeling’ among MPs over the need to reform the standards process there is ‘equally a strong feeling that this should not be based on a single case or apply retrospectively’.

He said the ‘link needs to be broken’ between the case of Mr Paterson and the wider issue of standards reform. 

The Cabinet minister said the Government will now be ‘looking to work on a cross-party basis to achieve improvements in our system for future cases’ with details brought forward ‘once there have been cross-party discussions’. 

In simple terms, the Government has completely torn up the proposals agreed by MPs yesterday. 

Meanwhile, the handling of the row has inflamed tensions with opposition parties which means the floated ‘cross-party discussions’ may struggle to get off the ground. That could see reform of the standards system kicked into the long grass. 

What did MPs vote for yesterday? 

Allies of Mr Paterson tabled an amendment to block his suspension from the House of Commons. 

The amendment was passed by 250 votes to 232 after Mr Johnson instructed Tory MPs to vote for it. 

The amendment proposed creating a new committee with a Tory majority to review the case of Mr Paterson and to make recommendations on the overhaul of the current standards process.   

How would the amendment have changed the standards rules? 

The new committee would have been tasked with looking at whether the standards system should give MPs ‘the same or similar rights as apply to those subject to investigations of alleged misconduct in other workplaces and professions’. 

That would include looking at things like the right to representation, examination of witnesses and the right of appeal. 

Who was Mr Paterson working for? 

Mr Paterson became a consultant to clinical diagnostics firm Randox – which sponsors the Grand National horse race – in August 2015, a year after he left Government after serving as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Environment under David Cameron.

He has carried out a similar role for Lynn’s Country Foods, a processor and distributor of meat products including ‘nitrite-free’ items, since December 2016.

Both firms are based in Northern Ireland and between them paid him more than £112,000 a year on top of his £80,000 annual MP salary.  

What is Mr Paterson said to have done? 

Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone found that he breached paragraph 11 of the 2015 MPs’ Code of Conduct that prohibits ‘paid advocacy’ – when he made three approaches to the Food Standards Agency relating to Randox and testing for antibiotics in milk in November 2016 and November 2017

Emails to the FSA read like marketing pitched on behalf of the firm, mentioning ‘Randox’s superior technology’ in helping identify problems. 

He went on to suggest that ‘once established the application of the technology could be discussed not just within the FSA but across the whole dairy industry,’ something from which the company stood to make large sums of money. 

The hardline Brexiteer broke the same rules by making seven approaches to the FSA for Lynn’s Country Foods in November 2017, January 2018 and July 2018 regarding a rival ‘global food producer (who) was acting in breach of EU law by mislabelling a product’.

And the same rules were breached in October 2016 and January 2017 when he made four approaches to ministers at the Department for International Development relating to Randox and blood testing technology.

Ms Stone also found that Mr Paterson had breached paragraph 13 of the 2015 MPs’ Code of Conduct, on declarations of interest, by failing to declare his interest as a paid consultant to Lynn’s Country Foods in four emails to officials at the FSA on 16 November 2016, 15 November 2017, 8 January 2018 and 17 January 2018.

Lastly, she found that Mr Paterson breached paragraph 15 of the 2015 MP’s Code of Conduct, on use of parliamentary facilities, by using his Westminster office on 16 occasions for business meetings with his paying clients between October 2016 and February 2020; and in sending two letters, on 13 October 2016 and 16 January 2017, relating to his business interests, on House of Commons headed notepaper. 

What punishment was recommended by the Commons Committee on Standards?

After receiving Ms Stone’s report the Commons Committee on Standards, made up of a cross-party group of MPs, recommended Mr Paterson serve a 30-day suspension that could trigger a recall petition in his seat. 

What does Mr Paterson say? 

Mr Paterson continues to deny any wrongdoing, saying he was acting on genuine concerns for public safety.

Ahead of the release of the investigation last week he made an astonishing attack on Ms Stone, claiming her ‘cruel’ probe in to his activities contributed to the death of his wife, Rose, who took her own life last year.

The 65-year-old North Shropshire MP believes the investigation against him was ‘biased’ and ‘an absolute denial of justice’.

After yesterday’s vote he said: ‘The process I was subjected to did not comply with natural justice.

‘No proper investigation was undertaken by the commissioner or committee.

‘The Standards Commissioner has admitted making up her mind before speaking to me or any witnesses.

‘All I have ever asked is to have the opportunity to make my case through a fair process.

‘The decision today in Parliament means that I will now have that opportunity.

‘After two years of hell, I now have the opportunity to clear my name.

‘I am extremely grateful to the PM, the Leader of the House and my colleagues for ensuring that fundamental changes will be made to internal parliamentary systems of justice.

‘I hope that no other MP will ever again be subject to this shockingly inadequate process.’ 

Why do Mr Paterson’s supporters think he has been wronged? 

Allies of Mr Paterson claim the standards investigation was ‘so amateurish it failed to interview witnesses’. 

They claim that he had 17 witnesses ready to give oral evidence on his behalf but complained they were never called. The Standards Committee however, pointed out that each of the 17 had supplied it with comprehensive written statements  and ‘did not see what further ‘relevant information could usefully be gleaned by inviting oral evidence from the witnesses concerned’.

Supporters believe the current standards system is flawed and must be overhauled to give MPs the ability to appeal.  

Former Brexit secretary David Davis said MPs currently have ‘no effective right of appeal’ because ‘this is a standards system where one person is chief investigator and prosecutor combined’.

Tory MPs want to replace the current standards system with a quasi-judicial process and a ‘proper’ appeal system. 

Former Environment Minister Mr Paterson declared he is resigning as MP for North Shropshire after the PM effectively cut him adrift, saying he would continue as a public servant ‘outside the cruel world of politics’.

The reversal meant that a motion on suspending Mr Paterson for 30 days for lobbying rule breaches – the punishment recommended by the cross-party standards committee – was set to be brought before the House again within days.

Mr Paterson’s decision makes the new showdown unnecessary – and also spares the 65-year-old the prospect of a recall petition and having to fight a by-election. 

In his statement, Mr Paterson referred to the suicide of his wife Rose, which he has linked to the investigation.

‘This is a painful decision but I believe the right one,’ he said. ‘The last two years have been an indescribable nightmare for my family and me.

‘My integrity, which I hold very dear, has been repeatedly and publicly questioned. I maintain that I am totally innocent of what I have been accused of and I acted at all times in the interests of public health and safety.

‘I, my family and those closest to me know the same. I am unable to clear my name under the current system.’

The whirlwind developments came less than 24 hours after the PM smashed convention by ordering his party to oppose the conclusions of the standards watchdog.  

It sparked complete chaos, leaving the existing system for regulating MPs’ behaviour in tatters and Opposition parties vowing to boycott the government’s plans to agree a new one. 

A triumphant Mr Paterson set No10 nerves jangling by saying in interviews last night that he would do all the alleged lobbying breaches again without a second thought.

But Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng was still sent out on the airwaves this morning to double down on the stance, describing Mr Paterson as a ‘victim’ and backing his call for standards commissioner Kathryn Stone to quit. 

The final straw appears to have been when the head of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, former MI5 head Lord Evans, delivered an excoriating assessment that the mooted overhaul of the parliamentary safeguards was ‘politically motivated’. 

No10 has denied that Mr Paterson was blindsided by the PM’s the sudden shift, after claims he only found out when called by a journalist while he was at a supermarket.  

He was last week found to have committed an ‘egregious’ breach of standards rules by directly advocating for two companies from which he pocketed some £500,000. He continues to deny any wrongdoing.

Despite the trenchant support from Mr Johnson – who has himself had run-ins with Ms Stone over his outside earnings and a ‘freebie’ trip to Mustique – the amendment ‘pausing’ the process and calling for a reform of the sleaze rules still only narrowly passed last night.

Ministerial aide Angela Richardson was fired for abstaining – but then bizarrely reinstated to her job at Michael Gove’s department after the U-turn today.    

Addressing MPs amid growing signs of panic in Downing Street this morning, Mr Rees-Mogg said: ‘It is important that standards in this House are done on a cross-party basis.

‘The House voted very clearly yesterday to show that it is worried about the process of handling these complaints and that we would like an appeals system, but the change would need to be on a cross-party basis and that is clearly not the case.

‘While there is a very strong feeling on both sides of the House that there is a need for an appeals process, there is equally a strong feeling that this should not be based on a single case or apply retrospectively.

‘I fear last night’s debate conflated an individual case with the general concern. This link needs to be broken.

‘Therefore I and others will be looking to work on a cross-party basis to achieve improvements in our system for future cases.’

It was unclear what would have happened to the eight politicians – including Cabinet minister Therese Coffey – who are currently being probed for breaches.

Three of those under investigation voted for the amendment to put the sleaze system on hold. 

Ms Stone has indicated she has no intention of resigning – despite Mr Paterson calling for her to step down and Mr Kwarteng saying this morning that it is ‘difficult to see’ her continuing. 

Mr Kwarteng also described Mr Paterson as a ‘victim’. 

But he was rebuked by Speaker Lindsay Hoyle for questioning Ms Stone’s position during the interview on Sky News.

Sir Lindsay told the Commons: ‘It’s not been a good period for the House, it’s been a very, very difficult time for all.

‘What I would say is I do appeal to members – whether they are Secretary of State or whoever – please, staff members of this House shouldn’t be named, they’ve not got the right of reply or the ability to defend themselves.

‘I am appalled that Sky News is more important.

‘I’ve got to say please, rein in your thoughts, consider what you are doing to the individuals concerned, they also have to live through this like the rest of us.

‘Please, consider inappropriate behaviour and start acting responsible to the position that you hold.’  

Allies of Mr Paterson brought forward an amendment last night that blocked the suspension while his case is reviewed. 

It was backed by a majority of 18, but around 50 Tories rebelled.

Labour MPs could be heard shouting ‘shame and ‘what have you done to this place’ as the result was announced, but Mr Paterson doubled-down and insisted there was ‘no question’ he would do the same thing again.

In triumphant interviews afterward that sent No10 into panic mode, the commissioner and members of the Standards Committee should consider their position.

‘Sadly they have not done a good job and come up with a rotten report which is full of inaccuracies… [they] all have to go,’ he said.

Unapologetically, he told the BBC that he would not change anything about his behaviour on the lobbying breaches.

‘If it happened again this morning, I would do it again,’ he said.

In another moment that might have shifted Downing Streets calculations, Lord Evans told an event for the Institute for Government think tank this morning that the vote had been a ‘very serious and damaging moment for Parliament and for public standards in this country’. 

‘It cannot be right that MPs should reject after one short debate the conclusions of the independent Commissioner for Standards and the House of Commons Committee on Standards, conclusions that arose from an investigation lasting two years,’ he said.

‘It cannot be right to propose an overhaul of the entire regulatory system in order to postpone or prevent sanctions in a very serious case of paid lobbying by an MP.’ 

The peer suggested ‘complacency’ had set in again after the expenses scandal.

‘Events of yesterday confirm our view that we are at the point of the cycle where it’s time to look again and to reassess,’ Lord Evans said.

‘It’s time to re-establish our commitment to credible, independent regulation of the ethical standards of public office holders.’ 

There was fury among Tories over the decision to impose a three-line whip on an issue on which the Government has not traditionally interfered.

Defence Committee chair Tobias Ellwood, who abstained, told Sky News that there was an argument to be had about whether the system needed reform.

But he suggested it was a day of ‘shame’ for Parliament and many MPs and ministers had been ‘troubled’ by the government’s stance.

‘Parliament’s reputation has now been damaged,’ he said. ‘We must learn from this… it does look like we are looking after our own.’

Mr Ellwood pointed out that with the current system now undermined the House has been left with ‘nothing there’ in terms of policing behaviour.  

Hartlepool MP Jill Mortimer, who was elected in May, told fellow Red Wall MPs: ‘This was a colossal misjudgement.’

Fellow Tory Kevin Hollinrake, who voted against the motion, said MPs ‘cannot ever give the impression that the powerful are above the law’. He added: ‘It looks like a moving of the goalposts and powerful people are above the law.’

Father of the House, Tory MP Sir Peter Bottomley ‘It’s a dark day for any faith in the integrity of our democracy.’

Conservative MP Nigel Mills, who rebelled ‘We get a result that we don’t like and then we seek to change the rules of the game so we can get a result we do like, and I don’t think that’s a good look.’

Tory MP Sir Gary Streeter, who abstained ‘This was a colossal misjudgment, it should not have been whipped.’ Hartlepool Tory MP Jill Mortimer ‘This is not consistent with the highest standards in public life, which it is essential we uphold if MPs are to be respected and enjoy public trust.’

Tory MP Stephen Hammond, who abstained ‘If the public believe that we are marking our own homework, our reputation individually and collectively will be tarnished.’

Sir Keir called on Mr Johnson to apologise to the nation for a ‘grubby attempt to cover up for the misdemeanour of his friend’ after an ‘unbelievable 24 hours’.

The Labour leader said: ‘This has been an unbelievable 24 hours even by this Government’s chaotic standards.

‘Only yesterday Boris Johnson was forcing his MPs to rip up the rules on standards in public life in a truly damning indictment of this Prime Minister and the corrupt Government he leads.

‘Boris Johnson must now apologise to the entire country for this grubby attempt to cover up for the misdemeanour of his friend. This isn’t the first time he’s done this but it must be the last.

‘Boris Johnson must explain how he intends to fix the immense harm he has done to confidence in the probity of him and his MPs.’

No10 denied proposals to overhaul the standards process had been a ‘preemptive strike’ on Ms Stone to protect Mr Johnson’s own interests.

Mr Johnson’s former chief aide Dominic Cummings made the accusation on Twitter saying the premier was trying to cover up ‘Wallpapergate’ revelations about the funding of a revamp at his grace-and-favour flat.    

But asked if that was true the PM’s official spokesman said: ‘No.’

Asked if Mr Johnson felt he made a mistake, his spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister fully recognises the strength of feeling in the House and that there is not cross-party support for the changes that were seeking to be made, and therefore understands that it’s right to change the approach and to decouple those two issues.’

In a round of interviews this morning, Mr Kwarteng pointed out that he personally had not voted – as he was in Glasgow for the COP26 summit.

‘I wasn’t there but I read about it,’ he told Sky News.  

But Mr Kwarteng said the situation was the ‘express will of Parliament’.

‘It’s not about the rights and wrongs of what Owen Paterson said or did or how he was paid,’ he said.  

‘I think the process is something that we want to look at, the fact is he had no right of appeal, and we feel that in terms of Parliament people should have a right of appeal as they do in most employments throughout this country.’

He said a right of appeal would be something all parties could rely on.

Mr Kwarteng was asked why the Government had not sought to change the rules prior to Mr Paterson’s case.

‘I mean, you’ll appreciate I’m sure that we’ve been talking about this for years,’ he said.

‘We’ve been talking about holding MPs to account, having the highest standards in public life, ways in which we can improve those standards and make people more accountable.’ 

Mr Kwarteng said it was ‘difficult to see’ what Ms Stone could do from here. 

‘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,’ he said.

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 peer Lord Hayward said one Tory MP who voted with the Government yesterday had later sent him a text message using the word ‘shambles’.

The pollster told Times Radio: ‘I’ve yet to find a clear explanation to how they’ve got themselves in this mess, and they have gotten themselves in a mess.’

He said he had ‘no doubt’ it would have an impact on Conservative voters, but he said: ‘I think it’ll probably be short-term, but it will have an impact on Boris Johnson’s rating, because this is the sort of thing which a number of voters actually have a suspicion about him, and the way he behaves, in what they would view as a somewhat cavalier manner in relation to natural justice.’

The chair of the Labour Party said the Government’s decision to ‘rip up the rulebook’ after the Conservatives tabled a motion rewrite the Commons disciplinary process is ‘corruption, plain and simple’ and Labour will have ‘no part in it’.

Anneliese Dodds told Times Radio: ‘We are completely against this attempt to effectively stitch up the standards system.

‘The Conservatives should be seeking to sort it out instead. We believe in strong parliamentary standards and a clean Parliament. We have always been clear on that.

‘We’re not going to have any part, or play any part in going backwards.

‘This is extremely damaging to public trust in Parliament and Labour instead wants to be building up that trust, not knocking it down.’

It comes as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer wrote in the Guardian: ‘I am sick of people skirting around calling this out for what it is: corruption.’ 

Mr Paterson admitted last night he continues to work with Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods – the two firms at the heart of the scandal.

He is said to have made three approaches to the Food Standards Agency relating to Randox and testing for antibiotics in milk in November 2016 and November 2017.

The emails are said to have read like marketing pitched on behalf of the firm, mentioning ‘Randox’s superior technology’ in helping identify problems.  

Quizzed over his actions, the MP told Sky News: ‘No, I wouldn’t hesitate tomorrow. Absolutely.

‘When we found out about the milk I realised it was absolute dynamite. First of all it was very obvious that lives were at risk, and secondly, if it had been mishandled and had been leaked to keen media agents like you, we could have absolutely blown the UK dairy industry apart.

Tory MP Peter Bone reveals his constituency office has been VANDALISED after he voted in support of Owen Paterson 

Tory backbencher Peter Bone revealed today that his constituency office was targeted by vandals over his support for lobbying shame MP Owen Paterson.

The Wellingborough MP sounded shaken as he made the admission in the Commons today.

Mr Bone voted in support of Andrea Leadsom’s successful amendment last night that stalled Mr Paterson’s 30-day suspension for acting as a paid lobbyist and paved the way for a new corruption regimen.

He was also one of 58 MPs who added their name to her amendment, showing the depth of their support for the change and their support for Mr Paterson.

But after Jacob Rees-Mogg this morning announced a Government U-turn, Mr Bone told MPs: ‘This morning my office was vandalised because of the way I voted last night. That puts my staff in danger, and this is not the way this should happen.    

The Wellingborough MP sounded shaken as he made the admission in the Commons today.

‘We could have strong disagreements but some of us should remember what happened to Sir David Amess and perhaps our language needs to be a little temperate.’

‘So I had absolutely no hesitation whatever in calling a meeting very rapidly. And if you look at the witness statements, they are grateful that I did do that.

‘As a result of those efforts, British milk is now safer. And we did it without disrupting the dairy industry. So I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again tomorrow, absolutely no question.’

Meanwhile it emerged on Wednesday night that he had earnt more than £500,000 from the two companies, including a sum of £112,000 which he takes home every year – £100,000 of which is from clinical diagnostics company Randox.

The other firm, Lynn’s Country Foods, has paid him £2,000 a month – for four hours’ work every other month – since January 2017.

Some 248 Tory MPs voted in favour of the amendment, along with ex-Tory and now independent MP Rob Roberts –  who was recently suspended himself for sexually harassing a male staff member – and the DUP’s Sammy Wilson. 

Some 13 Tory MPs voted against the amendment despite the Government instructing them to vote for it.  They were joined by 168 Labour MPs and 32 SNP MPs in opposing the move while 98 Tory MPs and 28 Labour did not record a vote.

While some of them will have been paired under voting rules coving MPs unable to attend Parliament, it shows the level of unrest in Tory ranks at the campaign. 

Mr Johnson himself has previously been in hot water with the committee – and Ms Stone. 

In 2018, before he became Prime Minister, he made a ‘full and unreserved’ apology to MPs for failing to declare more than £50,000 in income and registering nine payments after the required 28-day deadline.

Ms Stone said the breaches were ‘neither inadvertent nor minor’. 

In July, Mr Johnson was dramatically cleared by the committee of breaking Commons rules over a £15,000 Mustique ‘freebie’ with Carrie. 

The cross-party standards committee found the PM had made an ‘accurate and complete’ declaration about the holiday in December 2019, saying it was a donation from Carphone Warehouse founder David Ross even though the couple did not stay in his villa.

However, the committee – chaired by Labour MP Chris Bryant – had to overrule Ms Stone. She had concluded that Mr Johnson did breach the Code of Conduct during a 15-month wrangle after initially failing to provide a full explanation, slamming him for ‘not showing the accountability required of those in public life’. 

Former justice secretary Robert Buckland acknowledged it would have been better to seek reform to the standards system without it happening against the backdrop of the Paterson case.

‘I can understand the strength of feeling today but these difficult moments do allow us a chance to make a meaningful reform which I think will be better in the long run,’ he told ITV’s Peston.

Mr Buckland, a former member of the Standards Committee, added: ‘In a perfect world we should be doing this without events like the one of today. But this is how Parliament sometimes works, it’s imperfect.’ 

The amendment will create a new committee with a Tory majority which will make recommendations for a shake-up of the current standards system. It is due to report by February 3 next year. 

But Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats have vowed to boycott the new body, meaning it risks being seen as Tories ‘marking their own homework’.

Former No10 chief Dominic Cummings and other social media users ridiculed Mr Johnson over his latest U-turn

Was Boris targeting MPs’ sleaze watchdog after series of run-ins?

Boris Johnson’s astonishing decision to intervene in and attempt to overthrow Parliament’s anti-corruption system last night attacked a standards watchdog who previously targeted him over his own lavish personal lifestyle.

Kathryn Stone, the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, has previously castigated the Prime Minister over a lavish £15,000 Caribbean holiday funded by Tory donors.

But he was saved from punishment – which could have included being the first serving premier to be suspended from the Commons, by MPs who overturned her ruling.

She has also pulled him up over an ‘over-casual attitude’ to declaring his own personal financial interests to Parliament, including a six-figure stake in an English country mansion.

Ms Stone, who has been in post since 2018, last night said she would continue in her vital oversight role, and Boris Johnson’s -turn this morning suggests she is now safe.

She has proved a thorn in the side of senior MPs in her four years as Standards Commissioner. 

As well as the PM the former social worker also set her sights on John Bercow, now-disgraced former Labour MP Keith Vaz and the DUP’s Ian Paisley Junior, for breaking parliament’s rules.

She replaced Kathryn Hudson in 2018, having previously served as Commissioner for Victims and Survivors in Northern Ireland, a commissioner for the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and Chief Legal Ombudsman.  

Mr Johnson was dramatically cleared in the summer of breaking Commons rules over a ‘freebie’ trip to the millionaire’s playground of Mustique with Carrie – despite Ms Stone condemning his behaviour and the ‘unusual’ arrangements. 

The cross-party Standards Committee found the PM had made an ‘accurate and complete’ declaration about the holiday in December 2019, saying it was a donation from Carphone Warehouse founder David Ross even though the couple did not stay in his villa.

The committee – chaired by Labour MP Chris Bryant – over-ruled Ms Stone after she concluded that Mr Johnson did breach the Code of Conduct for MPs during a 15-month wrangle after initially failing to provide a full explanation, slamming him for ‘not showing the accountability required of those in public life’.

The report also suggested that the premier himself did not know exactly how the jaunt was being funded until after he arrived on Mustique and realised he was not staying in Mr Ross’s own property.  

Following the Commons vote, Mr Paterson  – who voted for the amendment himself – said: ‘After two years of hell, I now have the opportunity to clear my name.’ 

Mr Paterson’s register of interests says he earns £12,000 a year from Lynn’s as a ‘consultant’ to the sausage processing and distribution company.

Since August 2015, he has worked as a consultant to Randox Laboratories, for which he initially earned £4,166 a month for eight hours’ work. This rose to £8,333 a month and his hours doubled to 16 a month in April 2017, the Committee on Standards said.

Its report, which relates to Mr Paterson’s conduct between October 2016 and February 2020, said his remuneration from Randox and Lynn’s amounted to nearly three times his annual parliamentary salary. As a backbench MP, Mr Paterson earns a basic annual salary of £81,932.

His work for Randox and Lynn’s means he has earned more than £500,000 since 2015 on top of his salary as an MP. Mr Paterson told the inquiry he did not have written contracts with the two firms, the report said.

Mr Johnson had signalled at PMQs at lunchtime that the Government intended to support the amendment as he was grilled by Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner. 

He had questioned whether Mr Paterson had the ‘opportunity to make representations’ during the investigation as the premier backed calls for reform of the system.

Ms Rayner hit back and said that blocking the suspension of the former minister would show it is ‘one rule for them and one rule for the rest of us’.

Mr Paterson has angrily disputed the findings of the standards report, claiming the investigation was unfairly conducted. 

‘The commissioner in her report that was adopted… said the witnesses weren’t needed because their evidence they gave wasn’t relevant to the inquiry.

‘And that is an interesting view to come to, because other people might say: ‘How do you know whether it was relevant to the inquiry until you’ve taken their evidence and have found out the precise context of how things were done?’

As part of Dame Andrea’s proposals, MPs on the Conservative-majority committee led by former culture secretary John Whittingdale will examine whether the standards system should mirror that of investigations of misconduct in other workplaces, including the right of representation, the examination of witnesses, and the right of appeal.

The committee will comprise of Mr Whittingdale and eight other MPs – four Tories, three Labour and one SNP. 

Mr Whittingdale will have the casting vote in the event of a tie. 

The Leadsom amendment was vehemently opposed by Labour, with the party having repeatedly warned against trying to overhaul the system.

Thangam Debbonaire, shadow Commons leader, had said: ‘Let’s not forget that the cross-party standards committee, including three Tory MPs, endorsed the commissioner’s 30-day sanction for a breach of the rule around paid advocacy.’

She had said that ‘the Tories want to jettison the system that has served us well and which has been a vital part of rebuilding public trust after the dark days of Tory sleaze this Government seems determined to return to’. 

But Mr Rees-Mogg said there was ‘precedence’ for amending a motion to suspend an MP, saying it was last done in 1947. 

Sir Lindsay’s spokeswoman did not deny a report in The Times that suggested he believed blocking the suspension would bring the House into disrepute. 

Ms Stone’s investigation found Mr Paterson repeatedly lobbied on behalf of two companies for which he was acting as a paid consultant – Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods.

But the MP struck back, saying the investigation finding he breached rules on paid advocacy by MPs was a ‘biased process and not fair’.

Committee on Standards chairman Chris Bryant urged MPs to ‘read the report in full, with a fair and open mind’ and warned against voting it down in what would be an unprecedented move in the committee’s roughly 36-year history.

Owen Paterson’s resignation statement in full 

‘I have today, after consultation with my family, and with much sadness decided to resign as the MP for North Shropshire.

‘The last two years have been an indescribable nightmare for my family and me.

‘My integrity, which I hold very dear, has been repeatedly and publicly questioned.

‘I maintain that I am totally innocent of what I have been accused of and I acted at all times in the interests of public health and safety.

‘I, my family and those closest to me know the same. I am unable to clear my name under the current system.

‘Far, far worse than having my honesty questioned was, of course, the suicide of my beloved and wonderful wife, Rose.

‘She was everything to my children and me.

‘We miss her everyday and the world will always be grey, sad and ultimately meaningless without her.

‘The last few days have been intolerable for us. Worst of all was seeing people, including MPs, publicly mock and deride Rose’s death and

belittle our pain.

‘My children have therefore asked me to leave politics altogether, for my sake as well as theirs.

‘I agree with them. I do not want my wife’s memory and reputation to become a political football.

‘Above all, I always put my family first.

‘This is a painful decision but I believe the right one. I have loved being the MP for North Shropshire and have considered it a privilege to have been elected to serve my constituents for 24 years.

‘I would like to thank my staff who have worked for me so loyally over many years.

‘I also want to thank those who have stood by me so staunchly. I wish them all the best in that difficult but vital job of being a Member of Parliament.

‘I will remain a public servant but outside the cruel world of politics. I intend to devote myself to public service in whatever ways I can but especially in the world of suicide prevention.

‘At this incredibly difficult time for my family, we ask that the media respects our privacy and lets us grieve my beloved Rose, the best person I ever met.’

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