Andrew Bridgen: Tory MP suspended from Commons for breaching lobbying rules

A Conservative MP who broke lobbying rules and then suggested the woman investigating him could be swayed with a peerage has been suspended from the House of Commons for five days.

MPs have agreed to accept recommendations made by parliament's standards committee in relation to Andrew Bridgen.

The MP for North West Leicestershire was found to have breached the MPs' code of conduct in November.

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An investigation found he made multiple approaches to ministers and public officials on behalf of Mere Plantations, a Cheshire-based teak reforestation company with forests in Ghana for which he was initially paid £12,000 a year as an adviser.

He failed to register his interest in the company in the timeframe stipulated by the code, with the committee saying he had a "very cavalier" attitude to the rules.

The committee also found Mr Bridgen, an MP since 2010, had attempted to improperly influence standards commissioner Kathryn Stone during her investigation into his lobbying.

He emailed the commissioner shortly after the investigation started and implied she could be swayed with a peerage as he claimed he heard a "rumour" she would only receive one if she ruled against him because he was an outspoken critic of the-then prime minister Boris Johnson.

In a letter to Ms Stone, the MP said he had heard "on a number of occasions an unsubstantiated rumour" that her time as parliamentary standards commissioner was due to end and there were advanced plans to offer her a peerage.

"There is also some suggestion amongst colleagues that those plans are dependent upon arriving at the 'right' outcomes when conducting parliamentary standards investigation," he said.

"Clearly my own travails with Number 10 and the former PM have been well documented and obviously a small part of me is naturally concerned to hear such rumours."

He told the committee the email was purely "seeking assurance" but they dismissed that and said he "clearly did not need to seek official reassurance from anyone about rumours that he himself described as 'unsubstantiated'."

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'Litany of errors'

On the lobbying breaches, the committee said Mr Bridgen should have told ministers and officials he received a donation and a funded visit to Ghana from Mere Plantations as well as the £12,000 adviser contract.

Mr Bridgen said he decided to not take payment from the company or to undertake his duties a year and a half after accepting the role, but the committee said he did not amend the contract or have any written exchange with the company to confirm that.

He was found to have committed a "significant litany of errors" by failing to declare his interest in the company in eight emails to ministers, and in five meetings with ministers or public officials about carbon offsetting that would financially or materially benefit Mere Plantations.

A report recommended that Mr Bridgen be suspended for two days for three breaches of the MPs' code of conduct and a further three for the "unacceptable attack upon the integrity" on Ms Stone.

Mr Bridgen will be suspended from Tuesday and will be expected to apologise to the House.

He initially said he was disappointed with the recommendations but he would accept them.

However, he launched a failed appeal to overturn the recommendation in December - with the independent expert panel (IEP) dismissing it "on all grounds" and warning his punishment could have been more severe.

Owen Paterson, the Conservative MP who stepped down in November 2021 after a botched attempt by Mr Johnson to save him from punishment, was facing a 30-day suspension for breaking lobbying rules.