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Keir Starmer Calls For Suspended MPs To Be Blocked From Getting Peerages


3 min read

Keir Starmer has urged the chair of the Lords Appointment Commission to “put on the record” that suspended MPs should not be given seats in the Lords amid the fallout from Owen Paterson’s resignation.

In a letter to Lord Bew, who oversees the committee which vets nominations for peerages, the Labour leader said that offering the former MP a seat in the Lords would “undermine confidence in the probity of Parliament”.

Starmer added that the “issues raised” by Paterson “go far beyond the behaviour of one MP” and urged Lord Bew to confirm that any Member which “egregiously breached standards” would be ineligible for nomination.

“Putting this on the record would send a firm message about the importance of maintaining trust in the integrity and standards of our Parliament,” he said.

“I know that the Commission is entirely focused on its role, and does not need direction on these
matters, but it would be a dereliction of duty for me to avoid bringing this matter to the attention of the Chair and to seek your guidance in these matters.”

Speculation mounted this week that Paterson — who served as a Cabinet minister under David Cameron — could be nominated for a peerage in the future by the Prime Minister. 

Paterson, the former Tory MP for North Shropshire resigned this week following backlash to the government’s handling of his proposed suspension.

Parliament’s standards committee had proposed he be suspended for 30 days for breaking lobbying rules, but the government tabled an amendment to the vote on his suspension proposing that the watchdog be reformed.

Ministers were ultimately forced to backtrack from plans to overhaul the system following 24 hours of furious backlash from MPs across the House. 

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Starmer said the affair showed Boris Johnson "is the Prime Minister who is leading his troops through the sewer” and accused him of “ripping up the system” to “protect his mates”.

"I don't think you or anybody else could with a straight face say this prime minister is the man to clean up politics and to have the highest standards in public life because he is in the sewer with his troops,” he continued.

“I'm angry at what he is doing. In Britain we have high standards, we play by the rules and we have relatively low levels of corruption.”

“That is known around the world that is to be cherished, and this Prime Minister is tarnishing. I’m angry about it.”

But environment secretary George Eustice sought to downplay the affair on Sunday morning, describing it as a “Westminster storm in a teacup”.

“We made a mistake in bringing that forward in the way that we did, so we withdrew it,” he said.

"But the overall principle that you should have due process and a right of appeal in these types of situations, I don't think anybody doubts."

He added that there was a “frustration” in politics that "the really big important things that you're doing… are rarely deemed newsworthy".

"The news agenda will always focus on small storms in a teacup and Westminster rows.”

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