Brexiteer former MP Owen Paterson takes government to court over lobbying scandal

22 November 2022, 16:09 | Updated: 22 November 2022, 16:21

Former Tory MP Owen Paterson is taking the government to court
Former Tory MP Owen Paterson is taking the government to court. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Former Tory MP Owen Paterson is taking legal action against the government at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), claiming the process that found against him in a lobbying scandal breached his right to privacy.

Mr Paterson is a long-time campaigner against the ECHR, having given speeches calling for the UK to ‘break free’ from it.

As far back as 2014 he said: “Much of the problematical immigration into this country stems not just from the EU but from the European Court of Human Rights.”

He called for the “adoption of a new Bill of Rights and said the UK should be “breaking free from the ECHR”.

He resigned last year as MP for North Shropshire after Boris Johnson made clear he would no longer block efforts to prevent him from being punished by parliament for lobbying.

“I will remain a public servant but outside the cruel world of politics,” he said at the time.

He was found to have repeatedly lobbied the government on behalf of two companies that were paying him more than £100,000 a year and faced a 30-day suspension and a potential by-election before he stepped down.

He has maintained his treatment was unfair and his allies attempted to change Parliamentary rules to have his punishment rescinded.

Mr Paterson's submission to the court says his right to privacy under the European Convention of Human Rights was infringed and that the public finding that he breached the Code of Conduct ‘damaged his good reputation’.

In the court’s summary of the case Mr Paterson “complains that his article 8 rights [to privacy] were infringed [by the inquiry process that led to his resignation], as the public finding that he had breached the code of conduct damaged his good reputation, and that the process by which the allegations against him were investigated and considered was not fair in many basic respects”.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone last year found the then-Conservative MP for North Shropshire breached the Commons code of conduct by lobbying ministers.

The Commons Standards Committee said his actions were an "egregious" breach of the rules on paid advocacy by MPs and recommended that he should be suspended for 30 sitting days.

In early November 2021, then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried to change the rules to prevent Mr Paterson's suspension, before being forced to U-turn just 24 hours later in the face of public anger.

The sleaze scandal surrounding the case was one in a series of controversies which engulfed Mr Johnson's Government and ultimately led to his downfall.

Mr Paterson, an arch Brexiteer, argued in his 2014 speech that the UK should not just quit the EU but to replace the European Convention on Human Rights, on which the European Court of Human Rights adjudicates.

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