Government makes U-turn over anti-sleaze rules for MPs amid major backlash

4 November 2021, 10:58 | Updated: 4 November 2021, 11:24

By Asher McShane

The government performed a climbdown today and will go back to the drawing board over plans to change the way MPs' behaviour is scrutinised amid growing public outrage.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

MPs voted to prevent the suspension of Tory Owen Paterson last night. But the system they voted for is "unviable," and the planned reforms were ditched in a dramatic U-turn today.

It means MP Owen Paterson will still face a 30-day suspension after he was found by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to have lobbied ministers and officials for two companies.

A government source told LBC: “We need a solution on finding an appeal system but the committee as voted for yesterday is unviable.”

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said he would seek "cross-party" changes to the system after Labour and other opposition parties refused to take part in a "corrupt committee".

READ MORE: 'It reeks of corruption': Enraged MPs attack Tories as Owen Paterson avoids suspension

And he suggested any changes may not "apply retrospectively" after the Government came under intense criticism for blocking Owen Paterson's immediate suspension.

Mr Rees-Mogg's announcement to MPs came as an ethics adviser to the Prime Minister described Wednesday's votes as a "very serious and damaging moment for Parliament".

Lord Evans, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said plans for a Tory-led review into the disciplinary process for MPs as being "deeply at odds with the best traditions of British democracy".

The Commons Leader recognised that standards must be reformed on a cross-party basis as he acknowledged "that is clearly not the case" with the Government's proposals.

"While there is a very strong feeling on both sides of the House that there is a need for an appeals process, there is equally a strong feeling that this should not be based on a single case or apply retrospectively," Mr Rees-Mogg said.

"I fear last night's debate conflated an individual case with the general concern. This link needs to be broken.

"Therefore I and others will be looking to work on a cross-party basis to achieve improvements in our system for future cases. We will bring forward more detailed proposals once there have been cross-party discussions."