Starmer demands PM apologise for Owen Paterson scandal

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Owen Paterson who has has resigned as the MP for North Shropshire (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)
Owen Paterson who has has resigned as the MP for North Shropshire (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson must apologise to the country for his handling of the Owen Paterson sleaze row and clean up politics, Sir Keir Starmer said.

The Labour leader said the Prime Minister must confirm former Cabinet minister Mr Paterson will not be nominated for a peerage.

Ahead of an emergency Commons debate on standards at Westminster, Sir Keir said Mr Johnson needed to “clean out the filthy Augean stable he has created”.

He also called for action against disgraced MP Rob Roberts, who was readmitted to the Conservative Party despite breaking Parliament’s sexual misconduct policy.

Although he is back in the party, the Delyn MP sits as an independent in the Commons as the Conservative whip remains suspended.

A Commons debate last Monday was granted by Speaker Lindsay Hoyle following Tory attempts to block an immediate 30-day suspension for Mr Paterson over an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules.

Conservative MPs were ordered to back the creation of a Tory-led committee to look again at Mr Paterson’s case and the whole standards system.

But after a backlash over the plan the Government performed a U-turn and Mr Paterson subsequently quit as an MP, leaving what he called the “cruel world of politics”.

Sir Keir said: “Boris Johnson needs to attend this debate, answer for his mistakes, apologise to the country and take action to undo the damage he has done.

“The country is yet to hear a word of contrition over his attempts to create one rule for him and his friends and another for everyone else. He must now come to the House and say sorry.

“And he needs to go beyond just words. Today, the Prime Minister must begin to clean out the filthy Augean stable he has created.”

The reference to cleaning the Augean stable will be familiar to the classics-loving Prime Minister, as it was one of the labours of Hercules.

Sir Keir, who will lead Labour’s response in the Commons debate, said Mr Johnson should confirm he will not nominate Mr Paterson “or any other MPs who have been handed suspensions from Parliament” for a peerage.

He also urged Mr Johnson to work together on plans to throw Mr Roberts out of the Commons – a loophole meant the Delyn MP’s six-week suspension could not trigger the recall process which leads to a by-election.

Mr Roberts voted with Tory MPs for the plan to spare Mr Paterson an immediate suspension.

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