Sleazy Mc Sleaze face!
By Peter Dobbs
Originally published by Babergh South Suffolk Liberal Democrats
Our Prime Minister has something of a track record for accepting sleaze in his administration, not helped by his own oblique dealings when it came to the refurbishment of the No 10 flat
But today he and the Conservative Party plunged new depths when it instructed its MP's to vote to save its MP Owen Patterson from a suspension which could have seen him recalled and a by-election called
Lets just remind ourselves of what Mr Patterson was found to have done
Three main wrongdoings were identified by the independent parliamentary standards commissioner, Kathryn Stone:
First, breaching the MPs' code of conduct on paid advocacy. Paterson said he was acting as a whistle-blower over milk safety but the commissioner said this was only true of the initial approach and first meeting. Thereafter, follow-up communications "were intended to benefit his clients rather than to raise a serious wrong".
Second, breaching the rules that relates to using facilities and services funded by taxpayers. The commissioner found Paterson used his parliamentary office and meeting facilities in parliament 25 times for his work for paying clients, and that there were two letters sent on parliamentary paper.
Third, Paterson failed to declare his interests in all communications with FSA staff. His "general approach" was to declare his interests, the commissioner said, but she added that under the rules an MP "must make a declaration in any communication when approaching a minister or official".
For this lobbying work on behalf of two business clients Mr Patterson was allegedly paid around £100000 per year
The above combination of factors led to the commissioner saying Paterson's breaches "were so serious and so numerous that they risked damaging public trust" in the House of Commons and in MPs generally. That means, MPs are "dismantling the rule on paid advocacy, which has been around in some shape or form since 1695". said the Chair of the relevant parliamentary committee.
What makes this case so disgraceful is the fact that he Commons has never before reduced a suspension term .MPs overruling the body set up to scrutinise their breach of the rules risk undermining its independence.
All sorts of arguments are being deployed to justify the decision saying the process was flawed etc etc but it was notable that only a couple of days ago the Conservatives reinstated Rod Roberts MP as a member who had been found to have sexually harassed a staff member. In his case he too avoided a suspension because of a loophole in the parliamentary rules. We were told it would be unfair to change the rules after judgement was made although in the case of Mr Patterson this is exactly what has been done
The implications here go much wider than party politics. We should be entitled to expect our MPs to behave within the rules. It is unacceptable that when they are caught out they should be able to get their mates to bail them out, change the rules and avoid the consequences
It appears that MPs are already getting a lot of complaints from constituents about this issue. You can make your views known to out MP at email@example.com