Owen Paterson: Government signals U-turn less than 24 hours after MPs block fellow Tory's suspension

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  • Owen Paterson
    British Conservative Party politician (born 1956)
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg
    British politician (born 1969)

The government has signalled a U-turn over the controversial blocking of a Conservative MP's suspension.

Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, told MPs on Thursday that a link "needs to be broken" between Owen Paterson's case and a wider overhaul of parliament's disciplinary processes.

The change in the government's position comes less than 24 hours after Conservative MPs passed a motion in favour of ignoring a recommended 30-day Commons suspension for Mr Paterson.

With Prime Minister Boris Johnson's backing, Tory MPs also supported the creation of a new Conservative-majority committee to look into a complete overhaul of parliament's standards rules and to reconsider Mr Paterson's case.

Three of those Tory MPs to vote in favour of rethink of the current standards rules are currently under investigation themselves.

Mr Paterson's suspension had been recommended by the independent parliamentary commissioner for standards after he was found to have broken lobbying rules during his £110,000 a year private sector work.

The controversial action by the government and Conservative MPs prompted a furious backlash at Westminster, with Tories accused of "corruption".

Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, Mr Rees-Mogg said: "I am aware that last night's vote has created a certain amount of controversy.

"It is important that standards in this House are done on a cross-party basis.

"The House voted very clearly yesterday to show that it is worried about the process of handling these complaints and that we would like an appeals system.

"But that change would need to be on a cross-party basis and that is clearly not the case.

"While there is a very strong feeling on both sides of the House that there is a need for an appeals process, there is equally a strong feeling that this should not be based on a single case or applied retrospectively.

"I fear last night's debate conflated the individual case with the general concern.

"This link needs to be broken. Therefore, I and others will be looking to work on a cross-party basis to achieve improvements in our system for future cases.

"We will bring forward more detailed proposals once there have been cross-party discussions."

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