Boris Johnson to dodge MPs' scrutiny in sleaze debate as he refuses to say sorry

8 November 2021, 13:44 | Updated: 8 November 2021, 15:30

Boris Johnson will skip an emergency debate on sleaze
Boris Johnson will skip an emergency debate on sleaze. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson will dodge an emergency Commons debate on the Tory sleaze row.

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The prime minister visited a hospital in the North East on Monday, meaning he will skip the scrutiny session.

It was called in the wake of the Owen Paterson row, which saw the Conservative quit after outrage at his breach of lobbying rules.

Asked if he would apologise to his party and the public about the saga, Boris Johnson said MPs have "got to make sure... that we take all this very, very seriously and that we get it right".

He added: "There's a debate today, unfortunately I can't be there because I had a long-standing engagement up here."

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He attacked opposition parties for wanting to focus on a "particular case, a particular MP who suffered a serious personal tragedy, and who's now resigned".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has told Mr Johnson to issue an apology over the row.

The Tories, under Mr Johnson, have insisted their main issue is with the standards process, and he said he hopes for a "cross-party agreement on a way forward, including an appeals process".

Last week, Conservatives tried to block an immediate 30-day suspension for Mr Paterson, after a standards committee found he had made an "egregious" breach of lobbying rules.

They were told instead to support the creation of a Tory-led committee that would review Mr Paterson's case and the standards system.

However, a backlash saw the Government U-turn the next day, leading to Mr Paterson announcing he will stand down as MP because of the "cruel world of politics".

Tories are said to be angry at the Government's handling of the saga.

Mr Johnson said: "If there is anything positive to come out of the whole thing, it is that, as far as I can make out, the Speaker is determined to try to move us all forward with a system whereby we have a cross-party approach, which is what we were trying achieve last week."

The PM added there has been "absolutely no discussion" of whether Mr Paterson could be in line for a peerage.