Boris Johnson: Owen Paterson did break rules and I made a 'total mistake'

17 November 2021, 18:19

Boris Johnson admitted the 'total mistake' over the sleaze scandal.
Boris Johnson admitted the 'total mistake' over the sleaze scandal. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Boris Johnson has said he made a "total mistake" in how he handled the Owen Paterson affair, after admitting the resigning Tory MP broke lobbying rules.

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The Government had quickly u-turned on its decision to overhaul the way MPs' behaviour was policed, following a vote to block Mr Paterson's suspension at the beginning of November.

Speaking to MPs on the liaison committee on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said: "It was a total mistake not to see that Owen's breach of the rules, the former member for North Shropshire's breach of the rules, made any discussion about anything else impossible, and I totally accept that."

The sleaze scandal has continued to hold a firm grip on Westminster in recent weeks, with several politicians from both the Tories and Labour being scrutinised for their actions.

It comes despite Mr Johnson previously refusing to say sorry for the affair, instead saying "things certainly could have been handled better".

Read more: Starmer brands Johnson a 'coward' for not apologising for Paterson sleaze scandal

Read more: Tory sleaze scandal: MPs will vote today on new rules to ban paid consultancy work

Commons leaders Jacob Rees-Mogg had previously admitted that he encouraged Mr Johnson to save Mr Paterson as he had been "punished enough" after his wife's suicide.

Addressing the liaison committee, Mr Johnson said: "I think it was a very sad case but I think there's no question that he had fallen foul of the rules on paid advocacy as far as I could see from the report.

"The question that people wanted to establish was whether or not given the particularly tragic circumstances he had a fair right to appeal."

Read more: Rees-Mogg backed Paterson in sleaze saga as he was 'punished enough' by wife's death

The PM said he had believed there was "cross-party support" for reforms to parliamentary standards the Tories wanted to implement, but realised otherwise in hindsight.

"In retrospect it was obviously, obviously mistaken to think we could conflate the two things and do I regret that decision?" he asked.

"Yes I certainly do."