No.10 Appears To Dodge Scrutiny Again In Paterson Case – But No One Is Surprised

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The sleaze row continued as the government revealed they could not find crucial minutes for the Paterson case (Photo: DANIEL LEAL via Getty Images)
The sleaze row continued as the government revealed they could not find crucial minutes for the Paterson case (Photo: DANIEL LEAL via Getty Images)

The government’s efforts to rescue its reputation have fallen short yet again as it revealed on Wednesday it has misplaced some documents which are essential to the investigation into former MP Owen Paterson.

Paterson is a former Tory MP who was found guilty of breaching parliament’s lobbying rules by using his role in the Commons to the advantage of two companies he was employed by.

He denies breaking any rules, and chose to resign after the government renegaded on its brief attempts to back the MP but the investigation into his lobbying efforts continues.

During Wednesday’s PMQs, Boris Johnson promised to publish all the details of the meetings which saw the government agree to a Randox Health’s Covid testing contract – one of the firms Paterson worked for – worth £133 million, as it has been “investigated by the National Audit Office already”.

But shortly after this promise, health minister Gillian Keegan admitted Downing Street was actually “unable to locate” the formal minutes from the meeting immediately after this multi-million pound contract was signed between Randox, Paterson and Lord Bethell on April 9, 2020.

Ms Keegan said: “We will review what information is held, that’s in scope, and we will come back to parliament and deposit them in the libraries of the house. We will commit to that.”

When pressed further, she said this meeting with Paterson was “a courtesy call from the minister to Randox to discuss RNA extraction kits”, a move which was declared on the ministerial register of calls and meetings.

Yet Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has alleged that the absence of minutes was a breach of the ministerial code.

Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle also said: “I would expect that government meetings that take place with people would always be minuted.”

Fair to say, the general public and the opposition were more than a little sceptical about the timing of the disappearance of these minutes, too.

Unfortunately for No.10, it comes just as Johnson was trying to shut down the ongoing sleaze row which saw the Conservatives drop behind Labour in the polls.

While news agency PA was told that the minutes are not lost, but they just cannot be found right now, few people on Twitter agree.

Here’s a roundup of the most scathing takes on the latest Tory blunder.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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