Political news

DUP's Sammy Wilson only MP from NI to vote for Owen Paterson amendment

DUP MP Sammy Wilson

THE DUP's Sammy Wilson was the only MP from Northern Ireland to vote in favour of the amendment that put Owen Paterson's suspension from the House of Commons on hold.

The East Antrim MP was the sole member of his party to vote in the successful attempt to change the investigation process into the actions of the former Secretary of State.

No votes were recorded from the remaining seven DUP MPs.

Meanwhile, the SDLP's Claire Hanna and Alliance's Stephen Farry both voted against the amendment to overhaul MP standards processes that had resulted in Mr Paterson facing an immediate 30-day ban from Westminster for breaching lobbying rules.

Boris Johnson’s Government has been accused of “corruption” after Mr Paterson from an immediate suspension while seeking to rewrite the Commons disciplinary process.

Tories were ordered not to back the cross-party Standards Committee’s call for Mr Paterson to be suspended from Parliament for 30 sitting days after it found he repeatedly lobbied ministers and officials for two companies paying him more than £100,000 per year - namley Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods.

Dozens of Tories abstained and 13 rebelled after being told to vote instead for an amendment to establish a new, Conservative-led, committee to reconsider both Mr Paterson’s case and whether a new standards system is needed.

Despite the reservations of some on the Conservative benches, the move was passed with a majority of 18.

Mr Paterson said it would allow him to clear his name after “two years of hell” and called for the resignation of the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone.

In a Daily Telegraph interview, Mr Paterson said those responsible for the recommendation for him to be suspended should quit.

“Sadly they have not done a good job and come up with a rotten report which is full of inaccuracies… (they) all have to go,” he said.

Commons Standards Committee chairman Chris Bryant and Lord Evans, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, will be at a major event on ethics in Westminster on Thursday.

The Institute for Government is hosting the conference and some of its senior figures have been highly critical of the way the Paterson affair has been handled.

Deputy director Hannah White said it had been a “shameful day for British democracy”.

Anti-corruption campaigners, unions and Opposition MPs also condemned the Government’s actions, with the Tories being accused of “wallowing in sleaze” by Labour.

Sir Keir Starmer said it was “corruption”, adding “there is no other word for it”.

The Labour leader’s sentiment was echoed by shadow health minister Rosena Allin-Khan, who told ITV’s Peston: “Ultimately this comes back to the nub of everything that this Tory party’s about: One rule for them, and one rule for the rest of us.”

Tory Angela Richardson was sacked as a ministerial aide following her decision to abstain on the crucial vote.

The Guildford MP, who had been a parliamentary private secretary to Cabinet minister Michael Gove, said when she abstained she was “aware that my job was at risk, but it was a matter of principle for me”.

The plan to establish the new committee, which will be led by former minister John Whittingdale, was immediately thrown into chaos as Labour, the SNP and Liberal Democrats vowed to boycott it, depriving the panel of any real cross-party authority.

The row was triggered when Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Ms Stone recommended a ban from the Commons of 30 sitting days for Mr Paterson in a report subsequently approved by the Commons Standards Committee.

Ms Stone’s investigation found he repeatedly lobbied on behalf of two companies for which he was acting as a paid consultant – Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods.

Mr Paterson claimed the investigation was unfairly conducted and argued the manner in which it was carried out had played a “major role” in his wife Rose’s suicide last year.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Political news