Owen Paterson resigns as MP
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Mr Paterson, MP for North Shropshire, had been found by the cross-party Standards Committee to have committed an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules on behalf of two companies for which he was acting as a paid consultant – Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods. He vigorously denied the accusations, and MPs backed the amendment, tabled by former minister Andrea Leadsom, which lifted his suspension, as well as calling for an overhaul of the system for disciplining MPs.
However, despite it being marginally approved by 250 votes to 232, vehement protests from opposition parties, as well as many Tories, forced an abrupt climbdown, with Number 10 declaring Parliament would get a fresh vote on the question of Mr Paterson’s suspension after all.
To complicate matters still further on a dramatic day in Westminster, Mr Paterson on Thursday announced he was standing down as an MP, lashing out at what he called the “cruel world of politics”.
Mr Ellwood, the Conservative MP for Bournemouth East, was one of many who opted to abstain, taking to Twitter to voice his concern as well as appearing on Sky News.
He told Express.co.uk: ”This reflects Number 10’s ability to handle potential crises and emergencies.
“We saw that with to some degree with COVID, with the evacuation from Afghanistan.”
The chairman of Parliament’s powerful Defence Committee explained: “We need better to coordinate the message understand to swiftly make decisions and react to events on the ground.
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“There was little judgment or assessment or appreciation or analysis on how the Number 10’s previous strategy was going to play out.”
Mr Ellwood added: “As we saw with the vote, this felt deeply uncomfortable for the absolute majority of the party, which then begs another question about why wasn’t the whip’s office listened to you know from the quiet backbencher to the noisy, lively cabinet member.
”Everybody fed in their views and enough were loyal to the system to vote under duress, but everybody I know was deeply, deeply uncomfortable for this decision.”
The crux of the matter what the apparent blurring of the separation of powers between Parliament – the legislature – and Mr Johnson’s Government – the executive.
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Mr Ellwood warned: “There is a cry wolf about this as well in that trust will be eroded when you want people to vote for you on the big occasion.
“I hope that this is seen as a reality check for which the Government then can respond to and advance and develop a better co-operation with Parliament that respects Parliament’s somewhat independence as well, particularly when it comes to standards of individual parliamentarians.”
The Government had no business having a view on the conduct of a backbencher operating in Parliament, Mr Ellwood argued.
He said: “This is not to say, though, that you know, that the executive should not take an interest in making sure that their parliamentarians are looked after because it will be Parliament that changes legislation – we change the law.
“But don’t do it in retrospect to overturn a decision and that’s what we’ve done here.”
If the suspension had been enforced, Mr Paterson could have faced recall proceedings which may, in turn, have triggered a by-election.
In a statement confirming his decision to step down, Mr Paterson, 65, whose wife Rose committed suicide earlier this year, said: “This is a painful decision but I believe the right one.
“I have loved being the MP for North Shropshire and have considered it a privilege to have been elected to serve my constituents for 24 years.
“I would like to thank my staff who have worked for me so loyally over many years.
He added: “I also want to thank those who have stood by me so staunchly. I wish them all the best in that difficult but vital job of being a Member of Parliament.
“I will remain a public servant but outside the cruel world of politics. I intend to devote myself to public service in whatever ways I can but especially in the world of suicide prevention.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the episode indicated what he called the “corruption” at the heart of the Government.
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