Owen Paterson Wanted To 'Break Free' From European Court – He's Now Using It Against The Government

Owen Paterson
Owen Paterson

Owen Paterson

The former Tory minister and Brexiteer who quit parliament after a lobbying scandal is taking the government to the European courts – a judicial system he once loudly advocated leaving.

Owen Paterson is getting the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) involved over his claim that parliament’s standards watchdog breached his privacy when it found he broke lobbying rules.

The right to privacy is enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, on which the ECHR adjudicates.

Paterson, who served in the cabinet, in 2014 called for the UK to “break free” from the “absurdity” of the European courts so the government could “deport illegal immigrants who come to Calais”. Replacing the convention was a key plank of his support for Brexit.

The court said in a summary of his case: “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 parliamentary commissioner for standards, Kathryn Stone, last year found the then-Conservative MP for North Shropshire breached the commons code of conduct by lobbying ministers and officials for two companies paying him more than £100,000 per year.

The commons standards committee said his actions were an “egregious” breach of the rules on paid advocacy by MPs and recommended that he should be suspended for 30 sitting days.

In early November 2021, then-prime minister Boris Johnson tried to change the rules to prevent Paterson’s suspension, before being forced to U-turn just 24 hours later in the face of public anger.

The sleaze scandal surrounding the case was one in a series of controversies which engulfed Johnson’s government and ultimately led to his downfall.

Legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg tweeted that the case has been “communicated” to the government by the court, giving the government an opportunity to respond.