Rayner says government ‘wallowing in sleaze’ over plans to rip up rules – follow live
No 10 plan to save Tory MP from suspension ‘appalling double standards’, says Labour
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has accused Boris Johnson’s government of “wallowing in sleaze”, after No 10 backed plans to overhaul MP standard rules after Tory MP Owen Paterson was found to have broken lobby rules.
“If it was a police officer, a teacher, a doctor, we would expect the independent process to be followed and not changed after the verdict – it’s one rule for them and one rule for the rest of us,” she said at PMQs, following Mr Johnson’s claim he would support plans to rip up Parliament’s procedures if necessary.
Mr Paterson, the North Shropshire MP, risks being banned from the Commons for 30 days after he was found to have committed an “egregious” breach of standards rules for lobbying ministers and officials for two companies paying him more than £100,000 per year.
Elsewhere, Labour has revealed that personal information given by party members and supporters is among data breached in a “cyber incident” at a firm which helps run its IT systems. The National Crime Agency (NCA) has been informed, the party said.
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Leadsom claims amendment ‘not about letting Paterson off’
Let’s hear from Dame Andrea Leadsom now, who tabled the amendment in the first place. The former minister tells MPs “grave concerns” over the standards process need to be considered, adding her amendment was not about whether the report on Owen Paterson was correct or incorrect.
She says the change “is not about whether Mr Owen Paterson is innocent or guilty under that report”. At this stage, one Labour MP can be heard shouting: “Guilty as sin.”
Dame Andrea goes on: “It’s not about letting anyone off, stitching anything up or any of the other accusations flying around the chamber.
“Today’s amendment is about the process of investigations into members and the question over whether this process must now be reviewed by a politically balanced select committee that will consider some exceedingly serious questions.”
Her amendment, tabled yesterday evening, recommends that “the current standards system should give Members of Parliament the same or similar rights as apply to those subject to investigations of alleged misconduct in other workplaces and professions”, which would entail the “right of representation, examination of witness and appeal”.
It suggests the new committee is made up of four Conservative MPs, three Labour MPs and one SNP MP.
Sam Hancock3 November 2021 15:27
Rayner: ‘Rotten to the core stitch up by Tory MPs’
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has the following to say:
Sam Hancock3 November 2021 15:22
Tories accused of ‘hijacking’ standards debate
Debbonaire carries on, accusing the government of “hijacking” the debate and sending the message that paid advocacy is “fine” to do.
“The government is sending the message that paid advocacy, MPs selling their offices, their positions as an elected representative, that is fine to do that,” she tells MPs.
“And I am afraid that some, including members opposite, are claiming, including today from the despatch box, that this is a process without an appeal, but the commissioner reviews the case, makes recommendations and refers these to the standards committee, which is cross-party.”
She adds that Owen Paterson has access to legal representation, his character witnesses are in the report, duly considered, and as some of my colleagues have pointed out to me, “if everybody who wanted to give oral evidence to a court of law was just accepted, where would that get us? Is that really what we are saying?”
Mr Rees-Mogg goes on to claim there are numerous problems with the operation of the standards system. A fact, he says, which has been highlighted by the concerns of members across this “House in this particular case and others”.
Sam Hancock3 November 2021 15:13
Debbonaire launches attack on Tories and Rees-Mogg
In a particularly scathing attack, shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire says rules on paid advocacy have been in place since 1695, telling MPs the 17th century motion stated: “The offer of any money or other advantage to any Member of Parliament for the promotion of any matter whatsoever in Parliament is a high crime and misdemeanour.”
She adds: “If today the amendment passes or if the motion falls entirely, it sends the message that when we don’t like the rules, we just break the rules – when someone breaks the rules, we just change the rules.
“It turns the clock back to before 1695. That wasn’t acceptable then and it’s not acceptable now.”
Labour former minister Dame Margaret Hodge then argues: “The only logical explanation for the action by government ministers and the government benches today is not necessarily the recommendations we’ve got from the report we’re considering today, but there may be many, many others in the line to come forward which would cause even greater embarrassment to the government benches.”
Sam Hancock3 November 2021 15:06
Cooper asks why proposed new Standards committee ‘better than old’
Rees-Mogg said former minister Owen Paterson was acting as a whistleblower, discussing matters with government officials that “save lives”.
“The problems he pointed out with milk and with carcinogens in processed food save lives. If you come into information because of an outside interest, should you really hold it back from government officials if it would save lives?” the Commons leader said.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper then asks why Rees-Mogg thinks the proposed new committee is “somehow better than the old committee and does he not realise this just looks to everyone as if it simply doesn’t like the conclusion the old committee has come to?”
Mr Rees-Mogg replied: “The point at issue is that the new committee could come to the same conclusion, but what we are discussing is process and the lack of appeal and failures in the process as they currently exist.”
Sam Hancock3 November 2021 15:03
‘It looks dodgy because it is dodgy,’ says Labour on MP sleaze
A debate on the Standards Committee’s findings about Tory MP Owen Paterson is now taking place in the Commons, with Jacob Rees-Mogg taking questions from MPs.
Labour MP Richard Burgon said: “I think we need to widen this out. People out there believe the government’s attempt to rewrite the rules looks dodgy. And the reason they believe it looks dodgy is because it is dodgy.
“It’s a plan to cover up the kind of corruptions we’ve seen throughout the Covid crisis. Polls show that the population believes that this government is corrupt. I’m afraid they’re correct. It’s the most corrupt Government in modern history.”
Rees-Mogg, the Commons leader, says it is the government’s belief it is “right to allow the House to revisit whether, to ensure natural justice, our procedures should be changed to give MPs the same or similar rights as applied to those subject to investigations of alleged misconduct in other workplaces and professions, including the right of examination of witnesses”.
Sam Hancock3 November 2021 14:48
Labour says party members’ data breached in ‘cyber incident’
The Labour Party has revealed that details provided by party members and supporters were among data breached in a “cyber incident” at a firm which handles its data.
A “significant quantity of party data” had been affected by the incident on 29 October – and has reported the matter to the authorities, reports Adam Forrest.
“The third party told us that the incident had resulted in a significant quantity of party data being rendered inaccessible on their systems,” a Labour spokesperson said.
Sam Hancock3 November 2021 14:34
Phillips asks Rees-Mogg: ‘Would you do the same for Labour?’
Labour MP Jess Phillips has asked the leader of the Commons if he believes he would be pushing for the same amendments to Commons conduct rules, had a member of the Labour Party been accused of exploiting their position of power.
“I think the honourable lady knows me well enough to know the answer is yes,” Jacob Rees-Moog responded.
Ms Phillips, the shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, could be seen shaking her head in disbelief, suggesting she did not agree with Mr Rees-Mogg’s sentiment.
It comes amid a row over Tory MP Owen Paterson, who the Conservatives are attempting to block from being suspended over “egregious” breaches of ethics rules. A standards report last week found the ex-environment secretary repeatedly used his position as an MP to promote two companies that paid him a combined £112,000 a year.
He breached four parts of the Commons code of conduct and brought Parliament “into disrepute”, the Standards Committee found.
Sam Hancock3 November 2021 14:25