MPs should be banned from debating or amending standards reports into alleged rule breaches by colleagues, a key review has recommended
5.9k Share this


Ban MPs from amending Commons sleaze reports in the wake of Owen Paterson scandal, review urges

  • Review of Commons standards rules has been carried out by a senior judge
  • Proposes that MPs no longer be able to amend reports on colleagues behaviour
  • System thrown into chaos by Tory bid to save Owen Paterson from suspension  

MPs should be banned from debating or amending standards reports into alleged rule breaches by colleagues, a key review has recommended.

Senior judge Sir Ernest Ryder has proposed the change as part of an overhaul in the wake of the Owen Paterson sleaze row.

If the rule had been in place when the former Cabinet minister was engulfed by the lobbying scandal last November senior Tories would not have been able to mount the botched bid to save him.

A review of the code of conduct for MPs had been in the works for years, but the Paterson episode – which eventually resulted in him quitting the Commons – has fuelled pressure for reform.

MPs should be banned from debating or amending standards reports into alleged rule breaches by colleagues, a key review has recommended

MPs should be banned from debating or amending standards reports into alleged rule breaches by colleagues, a key review has recommended 

Former North Shropshire MP Mr Paterson was found to have broken lobbying rules by standards commissioner Kathryn Stone, who said he repeatedly lobbied on behalf of two companies for which he was acting as a paid consultant – Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods.

Mr Paterson claimed the investigation was unfairly conducted and argued the manner in which it was carried out had played a ‘major role’ in his wife Rose’s suicide.

When the Commons was asked to approve his recommended 30 sitting-day suspension, the Government launched a staunch defence and attempted to stave off his punishment through a Tory amendment calling for a review of his case and wider procedures.

Following a furious backlash, there was a U-turn and Mr Paterson resigned. But concerns remained that changes still needed to be made to the system.

Sir Ernest, who was asked to review the rules by the cross-party standards committee, said MPs should no longer be able to debate or make amendments to standards reports when they come to the Commons for approval.

That would have prevented Dame Andrea Leadsom from putting forward the amendment, backed by Boris Johnson, calling for a Conservative-majority committee led by former culture secretary John Whittingdale to examine the standards system.

Sir Ernest’s report, released by the Standards Committee today, also echoed the views of many Tory MPs by saying the commissioner is currently ‘both the investigator and the decision-maker’ on whether conduct rules have been broken.

The judge said the two should be separated and that in future her ‘findings’ should be considered as her opinion to be delivered to the committee, which would decide whether there had been a breach.

‘In my judgment, it is unhelpful to characterise the commissioner’s findings as a first-instance decision or to treat the committee’s decision as an appeal from the commissioner,’ he said.

‘The commissioner should not be both the investigator and a decision-maker.’

He also said the conduct process should have a right of appeal for MPs outside of the commissioner and committee, perhaps utilising the Independent Expert Panel which is currently only for appeals and sanctions into bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct complaints.

But he said this should only be to appeal against procedure and proportionality, not over a ruling of whether rules had been breached.

Currently, the route of appeal is through the Committee on Standards. In November, committee chairman Chris Bryant said: ‘It is wrong, however, to say, (…) that there is no appeal process now. There is. A Member can appeal the commissioner’s decision that there has been a breach of the rules. The Committee on Standards hears that appeal.’

However it is understood this is not considered a formal route of appeal.

Senior judge Sir Ernest Ryder has proposed the change as part of an overhaul in the wake of the Owen Paterson (pictured) sleaze row

Senior judge Sir Ernest Ryder has proposed the change as part of an overhaul in the wake of the Owen Paterson (pictured) sleaze row

Sir Ernest also recommended that Ms Stone not be present at any committee meeting where the MP under investigation was not in attendance.

He said that although Ms Stone would ever only be there to ‘facilitate her general advisory functions to the committee not to take part in the decision in relation to the individual case’, it would prevent the ‘inadvertent impression of irregularity or unfairness’.

Labour MP Mr Bryant said: ‘I welcome Sir Ernest Ryder’s thorough review into the standards system and thank him for the work he has done.

‘The committee remains committed to reviewing and further improving our processes, and I am now looking forward to the consultation process on his proposals and being able to put a package of reforms to the House in order to change our standards system for the better.’

The committee will consult on the changes until March 28, before deciding on Sir Ernest’s proposals. The final proposed changes will then be voted on by MPs.

Advertisement

5.9k Share this
You May Also Like

‘Large chunk’ of £4.3BN UK taxpayer Covid cash went to criminals, Labour MP Tulip Siddiq says

Frontbench Labour MP Tulip Siddiq has raised concern that ‘a large chunk’ of…

Biden’s disinformation czar reveals she and her family have received death threats

The now former head of President Joe Biden’s disinformation governance board revealed…

Testing giant Randox gained ‘no benefit’ from former MP Owen Paterson

Testing giant Randox gained ‘no benefit’ from former MP Owen Paterson lobbying…

Congress PASSES $28 million in emergency funding to fix the baby formula shortage

The House of Representatives on Wednesday night passed a bill to provide…

Wrexham Tory MP gets name of her town’s football club wrong twice in Parliamentary tribute

Blundering MP gets name of her town’s football club wrong twice in…

Biden invokes the Defense Production Act to speed up baby formula manufacturing

President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act on Wednesday evening to boost…

Now Liz Truss SOUNDS like Margaret Thatcher too: Speech expert says

Liz Truss has adopted a noticeably deeper tone of voice and slower…

MEGHAN MCCAIN: Cawthorn’s humiliating loss is a warning to all fellow dog and pony show politicians

There’s a special kind of humiliation in politics when you have already…