In an unprecedented move, the Government chose not to back the cross-party Standards Committee’s call for a six-week ban from Parliament for North Shropshire Owen Paterson after it was ruled that he repeatedly lobbied ministers and officials for two companies paying him more than £100,000 per year
Instead, the House of Commons backed a Tory amendment calling for a review of his case after Conservative MPs were ordered to support the bid and Boris Johnson questioned whether the investigation into Mr Paterson was fair as his party was accused of “wallowing in sleaze”.
Kevin Hollinrake, who represents Thirsk and Malton, was among the 13 Conservative MPs who voted against the amendment, which passed with a small majority of 250 votes for to 232 against.
He told The Yorkshire Post that he had “great sympathy for Owen Paterson and his family after everything that they have been through” but that “I think it is wrong to change the process as it is happening.”
Adding that he was “a little disappointed” that the vote was whipped in an attempt to get all Conservative MPs to vote with the Government, he went on: “It shouldn’t look like powerful people are above the law and when we don’t like it we can change the rules.”
If the six-week suspension had been approved against Mr Paterson, he could have faced recall proceedings that may have triggered a by-election.
He has angrily denied the findings against him.
As well as reviewing Mr Paterson’s case, the amendment calls for a Conservative-majority committee led by former culture secretary John Whittingdale to examine the standards system.
Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone recommended a ban from the Commons of 30 sitting days for Mr Paterson in a report approved by the 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.
The Prime Minister, who voted for the amendment, said paid lobbying in the Commons “is wrong” and those “who are found guilty of that should apologise and pay the necessary penalties”.
“But that is not the issue in this case or this vote that is before us,” he added to MPs.
“The issue in this case, which involved a serious family tragedy, is whether a member of this House had a fair opportunity to make representations in this case and whether, as a matter of natural justice, our procedures in this House allow for proper appeal.”