Jacob Rees-Mogg must resign over Owen Paterson scandal, Labour says

Opposition says position of leader of the Commons has become ‘untenable’

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Sunday 07 November 2021 09:53
Comments
<p>Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg </p>

Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg

Jacob Rees-Mogg should resign a leader of the House of Commons over the Owen Paterson scandal, Labour has said.

Speaking on Sunday morning Thangam Debbonaire said the Tory MPs position had become "untenable" after he led efforts to neuter parliament's standards watchdog and let a rule-breaking MP off the hook.

She joins calls from the chair of the standards committee Chris Bryant who on Friday said Mr Rees-Mogg had "created a crisis in parliament".

Ms Debbonaire, Labour's shadow leader of the house, also urged Boris Johnson to to “consider his position this weekend and takes steps to repair the reputation ... of politics.”.

And she urged the government to promise that Owen Paterson, who resigned this week over the scandal, would not be handed a peerage and return to parliament as Lord Paterson.

"If I was [Rees-Mogg], I'd be considering my position. That's what I think he should do today. I think his position is untenable," she told Sky News.

The leader of the House was one of the first senior Tories to come to Mr Paterson’s defence over the affair and led parliamentary efforts to scrap the corruption watchdog that had found he broke the rules.

Ms Debbonaire added that the government “needs to make clear that Owen Paterson will not be recommended for a peerage”. Boris Johnson’s spokesperson was asked about the issue of a Lords seat at the weekend and would not deny that the prime minister had offered the ex MP one.

Mr Paterson was found to have broken lobbying rules by advocating for companies that paid him tens of thousands of pounds above his own MPs' salary.

But when the standards committee recommended consequences – a 30 day suspension – the government instead moved to abolish the body and replace it with a committee with an in-built Tory majority.

Following a backlash, the government withdrew its support from the former cabinet minister, and Mr Paterson quit as an MP, bemoaning the "cruel" world of politics.

Corruption experts described the government’s approach as eroding democratic norms.

Meanwhile Cabinet minister George Eustice dismissed the Owen Paterson affair as a "storm in a teacup".

Speaking on the same programme Mr Eustice, the environment secretary, acknowledged that the government had "made a mistake". But he told the broadcaster: "What we have seen is a Westminster storm in a teacup.

"Yes, we made a mistake in bringing that forward in the way that we did, so we withdrew it.

"But the overall principle, that you should have due process and a right of appeal in these types of situations, I don't think anybody doubts."

Following Mr Eustice's appearance on broadcasters on Sunday morning Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner said the minister's performance had been "impressive".

"He managed to lie so many times in such a short period of time while keeping a straight face," she said.

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