Brexiteer Owen Paterson suing the government at the European Court of Human Rights over ‘privacy breach’

Owen Paterson  (PA Archive)
Owen Paterson (PA Archive)

Former Tory MP and minister Owen Paterson is suing the UK government at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over his suspension from the House of Commons after last year’s ruling that he broke lobbying rules.

He is complaining that his right to privacy under the European Convention of Human Rights was breached.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards (PCS) said the former Cabinet minister had improperly lobbied for clinical diagnostics company Randox and meat processor Lynn’s Country Foods. The ruling was handed down in October 2021.

The PCS found that Mr Paterson had “acted in breach of the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament by misusing Parliamentary resources, engaging in paid advocacy, and failing to disclose interests”.

In addition, it found that he had failed to “demonstrate the selflessness and integrity which formed part of the principles of public life”.

As a result, the Committe on Standards recommended a 30-day suspension, which was approved by the House of Commons.

That decision could not be challenged and Mr Paterson then resigned from office.

But it has been revealed on Tuesday that Mr Paterson has filed a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights against the decision.

A legal document published online said: “The applicant complains that his Article 8 rights were infringed, as the public finding that he had breached the Code of Conduct damaged his good reputation, and that the process by which the allegations against him were investigated and considered was not fair in many basic respects.”

The case has been “communicated” to the Government by the court, giving the Government an opportunity to respond, legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg tweeted on Tuesday afternoon.

The PCS ruling

Last year the PCS found that Mr Paterson made seven approaches to the same agency for Lynn’s Country Foods between November 2017 and July 2018.

Elsewhere, the report found that he had approached ministers in the Department for International Development on four occasions relating to Randox and blood testing technology in October 2016 and January 2017.

It claimed that Mr Paterson “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”.

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.

He also sent two letters relating to business interests on House of Commons headed notepaper in October 2016 and January 2017.

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

The report said: “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.”

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”.

In response Mr Paterson maintained that he was “totally innocent” and claimed he was “unable to clear my name under the current system”.