Owen Paterson: Standards Committee recommends Tory MP be suspended for 30 days
Conservative MP Owen Paterson is facing a 30 day suspension from the House of Commons after a watchdog found he broke lobbying rules in an “egregious case of paid advocacy”.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards said the former Cabinet minister had improperly lobbied for clinical diagnostics company Randox and meat processor Lynn’s Country Foods.
In a ruling handed down on Tuesday, the commissioner found that Mr Paterson had breached a rule prohibiting paid advocacy in the MPs’ Code of Conduct in making three approaches to the Food Standards Agency relating to Randox and the testing of antibiotics in milk in November 2016 and 2017.
He was also found to have 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”.
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