Boris Johnson declines opportunity to apologise for Owen Paterson standards scandal

The Prime Minister has declined the opportunity to apologise for last week’s dramatic Owen Paterson row, saying instead that standards in Parliament need to be taken “very, very seriously”.

There will be a three-hour-long emergency debate in the House of Commons this afternoon following last week’s row which saw the Government accused of trying to rewrite the rules on Parliamentary standards, after former Cabinet Minister Mr Paterson - who has since quite as North Shropshire MP - was found to have lobbied Ministers on behalf of two companies paying him around £100,000 a year.

Boris Johnson will not be on the green benches for the session, having travelled to Northumberland for a visit and returning by train, meaning he will not make it back to Westminster in time.

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When asked if he would apologise for the incident to his party and the country, on his visit to a hospital in Hexham today, Mr Johnson told reporters “What we’ve got to make sure is that we take all this very, very seriously and that we get it right.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is shown around a CT scan room during a visit to Hexham General Hospital in Northumberland (PA)

“There’s a debate today, unfortunately I can’t be there because I had a long-standing engagement up here.”

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He hoped that there would be “cross party engagement” going forward, but that he does not “think there is much more to be said about that particular case” when it comes to Mr Paterson.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has accused the Prime Minister of “running scared” of the standards debate having “chosen to hide”

Boris Johnson does not have the decency either to defend or apologise for his actions.

“Rather than repairing the damage he has done, the Prime Minister is running scared.”

“His concern, as always, is self-preservation, not the national interest,” he added.

Last week’s attempt to overhaul the standards system failed when opposition pirates failed to co-operate with the proposed new committee to examine cases, which would be led by a Conservative majority of MPs and chaired by party grandee John Whittingdale.

Mr Johnson told reporters: “I think it is very important that we get this right.

“We are going to make every effort to get it right. We are going to hold MPs to account. MPs should not break the rules.”