Angela Rayner accuses Conservatives of ‘wallowing in sleaze’ over attempt to prevent Owen Paterson suspension

‘When they break the rules, they just remake the rules’ Labour’s deputy leader says

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 03 November 2021 13:17
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Labour accuses Boris Johnson of rewriting parliamentary rules amid sleaze row

Labour has accused Boris Johnson of attempting to rewrite parliamentary rules to save a Tory found guilty of sleaze — despite refusing to remove another MP who sexually harassed a member of staff.

It comes after No 10 revealed the prime minister was backing plans to rip up existing rules for punishing rule-breaking MPs after last week’s finding against the former Tory minister Owen Paterson.

Government whips have ordered Tory MPs to vote against a 30-day suspension for Mr Paterson by backing an amendment motion arguing the probe into his behaviour, which found “egregious” breaches of rules, was flawed.

Stepping in for Sir Keir Starmer, who remains in isolation, at prime minister’s questions, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said of the move: “As we can see, it’s one rule for everybody else and one rule for the Conservatives.

“When they break the rules, they just remake the rules,” she said, insisting the government was “wallowing in sleaze”.

“I know that Donald Trump is the prime minister’s hero, but I say to the Prime Minister, in all seriousness, he should learn the lessons that if he keep cheating the public, it catches up with you,” she added.

“If it was a police officer, a teacher, a doctor, we would expect the independent process to be followed and not changed after the verdict - it’s one rule for them and one rule for the rest of us.”

Ms Rayner also contrasted the decision to back a change in the rules to the government’s response to the case of Rob Roberts, who was briefly suspended from parliament after sexual misconduct claims were investigated.

A loophole meant the disgraced MP, who has had his Tory membership reinstated but still sits as an independent in the Commons, was able to avoid a recall petition because of the length suspension was recommended by the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) — rather than a Commons committee.

Earlier this month, the government closed the loophole for future cases, but voted down a motion from Labour to make the changes retrospective.

Referring to the misconduct case against Delyn MP MrRoberts, the deputy Labour leader added: “When a Conservative member was found guilty of sexual harassment but let off on a loophole, they said the rules could not be changed after the event.

“So they can’t change the rules to stop sexual harassment, but they can change the rules to allow cash for access. Why is the prime minister making it up as he goes along?”

In response, Mr Johnson said: “All the professions that she mentions have a right of appeal. That is what the House needs to consider. May I respectfully say to her that instead of playing politics on this issues, which is what they are doing, I think that she needs to consider the procedures of this House in a spirit of fairness.”

Mr Johnson also insisted that paid lobbying in the Commons “is wrong” and that MPs “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 said during prime minister’s questions.

“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.”

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