22 Tory MPs investigated by parliament’s sleaze watchdog voted to overhaul it

Controversial vote could not have passed without Conservatives who have faced conduct probes

Adam Forrest
Thursday 04 November 2021 16:22
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Anneliese Dodds criticises government over ‘dirty, sleazy, corrupt politics’

A group of 22 Conservative MPs who voted for the government’s botched overhaul of parliament’s disciplinary process have been investigated by the conduct watchdog.

Boris Johnson’s government was forced into an extraordinary U-turn over controversial plans to save Tory MP Owen Paterson from suspension and rip up the standards system.

Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said on Thursday he would seek “cross-party” changes after opposition parties vowed to boycott a “corrupt” new Tory-led committee tasked with reviewing the process.

But it has emerged that nearly two dozen Tory MPs who backed the idea of overhauling the standards system have come under scrutiny from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone.

The amendment to save Mr Paterson from a 30-day suspension and review conduct rules only passed by 18 votes – so could not have gone through without MPs who have faced probes.

Three of five Conservative MPs currently being investigated by the commissioner – James Cleverly, David Warburton and Daniel Kawczynski – all backed the government’s failed plan on Wednesday.

Mr Cleverly and Mr Warburton face scrutiny over whether or not they follow the rules on declaring their interests concerning gifts, benefits and hospitality.

Mr Kawczynski, meanwhile, is being probed over whether his actions have damaged the reputation of the House – having already been found to have behaved in a “threatening and intimidating manner” towards parliamentary staff. He apologised “unreservedly” for his behaviour.

As first noted by Business Insider, another 19 MPs have had allegations upheld against them by Ms Stone’s office mostly over the failure to follow the rules on registering their interests.

They are: Adam Afriyie; Scott Benton; Crispin Blunt; Peter Bone; Maria Caulfield; Robert Courts; Richard Drax; David Duguid; Iain Duncan Smith; Mark Francois; George Freeman; Adam Holloway; Karl McCartney; Natalie Elphicke; Roger Gale; Theresa Villiers; Bob Stewart; Chloe Smith; Craig Tracey.

Earlier this year, Mr Johnson was found by Ms Stone’s office to have broken the rules over declaring his luxury stay in Mustique – but the cross-party standards committee chose not to endorse the finding and cleared the PM of wrongdoing.

Mr Johnson has admitted receiving a free holiday at a Spanish villa linked to Tory colleague Zac Goldsmith. An update to the register of ministerial interests has shows the PM’s Johnson’s stay at the Marbella property in October was funded by the Goldsmith family.

The government has come in for intense criticism for its failed attempt to block Mr Paterson’s suspension after he was found to have broken lobbying rules, while seeking to rip up the disciplinary process at the same time.

On Thursday Mr Paterson resigned as the MP for North Shropshire. Rather than face defeat in a new vote planned for next week, he decided to quit – saying he wanted to leave “the cruel world of politics”.

Several senior Tories have spoken out against the manoeuvre which led to the mess. “This is one of the most unedifying episodes I have seen in my 16 years as a MP,” said former chief whip Mark Harper. “This must not happen again.”

Much of the Tories’ thwarted effort to overturn the verdict against Mr Paterson and reform conduct rules has been focused on the Ms Stone – the independent parliamentary commissioner who monitors their conduct.

Prior to the government’s astonishing U-turn, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng suggested Ms Stone should “consider her position”. He told Sky News: “It’s difficult to see what the future of the commissioner is.”

Ms Stone’s office told The Independent that she intends to remain in post until the end of her term in December 2022, and the cross-party standards committee has made clear that it will continue its work.

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