Owen Paterson: Labour demands action over Kwarteng comments

4 November 2021, 22:32 | Updated: 5 November 2021, 01:43

Angela Rayner wrote the letter demanding an investigation into the Business Secretary's comments.
Angela Rayner wrote the letter demanding an investigation into the Business Secretary's comments. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Labour has demanded an investigation into Kwasi Kwarteng's comments about the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.

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The Business Secretary appeared to suggest that Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone - who was behind the probe into Tory MP Owen Paterson - should consider her position in the wake of the chaos seen in Westminster.

It came as Mr Paterson faced a vote on his suspension on Wednesday after he was found to have repeatedly lobbied ministers and officials for two companies paying him more than £100,000 per year.

In response, Labour's deputy leader, Angela Rayner, wrote to Boris Johnson's ethical adviser calling for an investigation into the comments, suggesting they breached the Ministerial Code to "treat all those with whom they come into contact with consideration and respect".

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When asked whether Ms Stone should resign, Mr Kwarteng told Sky News she should "decide her position".

He said: "I think it's difficult to see what the future of the commissioner is, given the fact that we're reviewing the process, and we're overturning and trying to reform this whole process..."

However, his comments came before the Government's humiliating u-turn over the lobbying row, following a huge backlash, which has left Boris Johnson counting the cost.

In the letter to Lord Geidt - Mr Johnson's independent adviser on ministers' interests - Ms Rayner suggested the comments could amount to bullying an official.

"For the Business Secretary to use this entirely corrupt process to bully the independent Parliamentary Commissioner is disgusting," Ms Rayner said.

"This type of behaviour has no place in our democracy. A Cabinet minister publicly threatening the position of a member of staff who serves the Houses of Parliament and upholds our democratic processes is a fundamental breach of the Ministerial Code, as well as being a rotten way for anybody to behave in any walk of life."

Read more: Tory MP loses her job after abstaining on Owen Paterson vote

Earlier on Thursday, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle rebuked Mr Kwarteng.

"It's not been a good period for the House, it's been a very, very difficult time for all," the Speaker said.

"What I would say is I do appeal to members - whether they are Secretary of State or whoever - please, staff members of this House shouldn't be named, they've not got the right of reply or the ability to defend themselves."

Downing Street would not comment on whether Mr Johnson thought Ms Stone should resign.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "That's entirely a matter for her."

Meanwhile, Mr Paterson has since stepped down from his role saying politics was a "cruel world".