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Labour Accuses Tories Of “Double Standards” Over Parliamentary Standards Amendment

4 min read

Lisa Nandy has described Conservative plans to rewrite parliamentary standards rules in an attempt to overturn a recommended 30-day House of Commons suspension ruling against the Tory MP Owen Paterson as “the most appalling double standards in 100 years”.

Today MPs will vote on an amendment put forward by Andrea Leadsom, which would see the reform of parliament's standards watchdog to include a new committee of eight MPs – four of which would be Tories - tasked with rewriting standards rules.

Last week, following a two-year investigation, Paterson was found guilty of an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules by the parliamentary watchdog.

The MP for North Shropshire, who was formerly employed as a paid consultant to the diagnostics firm Randox and the meat supplier Lynn’s Country Foods, was recommended a 30-day suspension from the Commons by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone.

Stone found that Paterson had breached advocacy rules between October 2016 and February 2020 by approaching ministers and government departments on behalf of the two companies.

Paterson firmly rejects Stone’s finding and denies any wrongdoing. He argues he only ever reached out to ministers to raise good faith concerns about food standards.

With the backing of the Prime Minister, Conservative MPs plan to vote against accepting the parliamentary watchdog’s recommendations today.

Speaking on Sky News this morning, the Shadow Foreign Secretary accused the Conservative Party of adopting a “one rule for everybody else and another rule for them” mentality.

“Not only is [Paterson] complicit in this double standard, but so are all of those Tories who are supporting him today,” Nandy told Sky News.

“It’s incredible that they think they can do this without any repercussions,” she added.   

“I’ve got constituents who make mistakes on their claim for universal credit, who are hit with large fines with no right of appeal, and yet you’ve got an MP whose been found by a committee with Tory MPs on it to have broken the parliamentary rules, to have been lobbying for a private company and using his office to do so," Nandy continued. 

“This has never happened where members of the House of Commons have tried to completely not just overturn a decision that’s been made by a parliamentary committee and by the independent standards commissioner, but also to try and jettison the system that governs it.

“They can’t say it’s one rule for everybody else and another rule for them. Nobody is disputing the fact that he broke the rules and there has to be sanctions for that.”

Defending Paterson on Sky News this morning, Treasury Minister John Glen argued “it’s a matter for the House of Commons to respond to that report”.

“I think most people would agree that when there is a dispute over someone’s conduct there’s got to be fair and due process before an outcome and a determination of the consequences is made,” Glen said.

Bernard Jenkin, who himself is a member of the Standards Committee, has argued that as it currently stands, “our system for promoting and regulating of standards in this House is neither effective nor fair”.

Writing in The House, the Conservative MP said he believed the current committee "commands no confidence" from MPs and the public alike. 

“It does not even command the confidence of those who complain," he added. 

“I hope to influence the current review of the Code and its operation, but the more I learn, the more it is clear that it requires root and branch reform.”

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