LONDON (AP) — British lawmakers voted Wednesday not to suspend a Conservative legislator who was found to have broken lobbying rules — a decision that instantly brought accusations of corruption from opponents of the Conservative government.
The House of Commons voted by 250 to 232 not to approve the 30-day suspension of Owen Paterson recommended by the Commons standards committee. It is the first time in decades that lawmakers have not followed through on the standards committee’s decisions.
Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone said last month that Paterson lobbied the government in 2016 and 2017 on behalf of two companies that were paying him — the clinical diagnostics company Randox and the meat-processing firm Lynn’s Country Foods.
The Commons Standards Committee said Paterson’s actions were an “egregious case of paid advocacy” and had “brought the House into disrepute.” It recommended that he be suspended from the House of Commons for 30 sitting days.
Paterson, a former environment minister who has been a member of Parliament since 1997, called the investigation “biased” and said he had not been allowed to present his own evidence. He said anxiety about the probe played a part in the death of his wife Rose, who killed herself in 2020.
Paterson’s cause gained support from many other Conservatives, who secured Wednesday’s decision not to suspend him immediately, but instead to review the case and look at overhauling the Commons’ disciplinary process.
Paterson said the move would allow him to clear his name after “two years of hell,” but anti-corruption campaigners and opposition politicians condemned the decision.
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the main opposition Labour Party, accused the Conservatives of “wallowing in sleaze.”
“Today the Tories voted to give a green light to corruption,” she tweeted, adding that “The Prime Minister, Conservative Ministers and MPs have brought shame on our democracy.”
The Associated Press