Tory MP faces 30 day suspension from Parliament after lobbying investigation

26 October 2021, 09:50 | Updated: 26 October 2021, 11:21

Mr Paterson repeatedly broke lobbying rules
Mr Paterson repeatedly broke lobbying rules. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Tory MP and former minister Owen Paterson is facing a 30 day suspension from the House of Commons for breaking lobbying rules multiple times.

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The Parliamentary Committee on Standards has recommended Mr Paterson be suspended for 30 days over an "egregious case of paid advocacy" after investigating his lobbying for two companies - Randox and Lynn's Country Foods - he was a consultant for.

"The committee found that Mr Paterson's actions were an egregious case of paid advocacy, that he repeatedly used his privileged position to benefit two companies for whom he was a paid consultant, and that this has brought the House into disrepute," the report read.

The investigation also found he had failed to declare his interest as a paid consultant to Lynn's Country Foods.

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Responding to the report's findings, Mr Paterson said he had acted "properly, honestly and within the Rules".

"The process I have been subject to does not comply with natural justice," he said, in a statement published on his website.

"I was pronounced guilty by the Commissioner without being spoken to and the 17 witnesses who came forward to support me were also not spoken to and their written evidence ignored."

He described the investigation as "torturous and inadequate", saying: "Parliament's internal system of justice needs to operate properly with the principles of natural justice."

He added: "I am not guilty and a fair process would exonerate me."

The investigation was launched by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards in October 2019 following media reports that Mr Paterson had lobbied for two companies for which he was a paid consultant.

The commissioner found Mr Paterson, who has been the MP for North Shropshire since 1997, had breached a rule in the MP's Code of Conduct by making three approaches to the Food Standards Agency in November 2016 and 2017, relating to Randox and the testing of antibiotics in milk.

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The investigation also found he breached the same rule over seven approaches, also to the Food Standards Agency, for Lynn's Country Foods, and with four approaches to ministers in the Department for International Development relating to Randox and blood testing technology.

Mr Paterson also breached the code over use of parliamentary facilities by using his parliamentary office for business meetings with clients on 25 occasions between October 2016 and February 2020 and by sending two letters relating to business interests on House of Commons headed notepaper in October 2016 and January 2017.

After analysing the commissioner's findings, the Committee on Standards recommended he be suspended for 30 days.

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The Committee on Standards acknowledged there were mitigating factors around the investigation into Mr Paterson, including the death of his wife Rose in June 2020.

"Mr Paterson's wife took her own life in June 2020. The committee consider it very possible that grief and distress caused by this event has affected the way in which Mr Paterson approached the commissioner's investigation thereafter," the report said.

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Relating to the breach of use of his office, the committee also acknowledged Mr Paterson had been suffering from ill health which "made him less able easily to leave the parliamentary estate".

The committee added Mr Paterson's "passion and expertise" in food and farming matters was "admirable, as long as it is channelled within the rules of the House".