Another Commons sleaze farce: Attempt to U-turn over plans to axe watchdog and reinstate Owen Paterson’s Parliament suspension for breaking lobbying rules are torpedoed when a SINGLE Tory MP objects
- Tory MP blocked a motion to reverse controversial standards reforms
- Commons had been expected to formally overturn Owen Paterson vote
- But a single shout of ‘Object’ came from the Tory benches in the chamber
- Several sources named the MP who made the objection as Christopher Chope
Boris Johnson’s attempt to draw a line under the sleaze scandal descended into farce last night after just one Tory MP blocked a motion to reverse controversial standards reforms.
The House of Commons had been expected to formally overturn the vote from last week that had protected Conservative former minister Owen Paterson from suspension for lobbying.
But as the motion was moved in the chamber yesterday, a single shout of ‘Object’ came from the Tory benches.
Several sources named the MP who made the objection as Sir Christopher Chope, who has a history of controversial interventions in Parliament, having previously blocked Bills on upskirting and female genital mutilation.
His shout means the U-turn, which was supposed to be a formality, was blocked under parliamentary procedure.
It follows the Government’s botched attempt to tear up Parliament’s anti-sleaze rules to block the suspension of former minister Mr Paterson for lobbying.
Several sources named the MP who made the objection as Christopher Chope
An inquiry had found him guilty of an ‘egregious’ breach of lobbying rules on behalf of two firms which had paid him £500,000.
The Prime Minister ordered Tory MPs to back the plan and narrowly won the vote.
The plan was dropped the following day after a huge public backlash. Mr Paterson then quit as MP for North Shropshire following the botched attempt to delay his suspension.
Yesterday’s motion would have reversed the Government plan quietly.
But the issue must now be debated in the Commons again and put to another vote. Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans said it is now ‘up to the Government to re-programme that particular motion’.
Labour’s shadow leader of the Commons Thangam Debbonaire called the move ‘astonishing’, adding: ‘You couldn’t make it up.
The Commons had been expected to formally overturn the vote from last week that had protected former minister Owen Paterson from suspension for lobbying
Christchurch MP Sir Christopher Chope
Christchurch MP Sir Christopher Chope has made a career out of blocking back bench legislation in Parliament.
The Tory MP has halted progress on laws about the Hillborough disaster, a pardon for Alan Turing and wild animals in circuses.
He frequently cites a lack of debate, faulty drafting or duplication of law.
Among dozens of Bills he had blocked, Sir Christopher has also opposed:
- Free hospital parking for carers
- Making revenge evictions a crime
- Laws on same-sex marriage
- Protecting police dogs
- Careers advice for sixth formers
- National standards for taxi licenses
Sir Christopher, first elected in 1983, has repeatedly criticised the ability of MPs to make small changes to the law from the backbenches.
Despite his opposition to many backbench bills, the father of two is also the architect of dozens of his own – typically as a way to take up time and block other proposals.
‘Two weeks ago the Prime Minister forced Tory MPs to tear up the rules on Standards just to protect one of their own. Now they can’t even clear up their own mess.
‘Tonight’s farce is of the Tories’ own making and serves Boris Johnson right for trying to sneak a U-turn out at night rather than do the decent thing and come to the House to apologise for the Tory sleaze scandal.
‘At the moment, it doesn’t look like the Tories could organise a drinks party in a brewery. The Prime Minister needs to get a grip.’
It comes after the Prime Minister was urged to toughen up standards rules for MPs to make it harder for ministers to ‘cheat’ the system.
Every living former cabinet secretary have called for stronger powers for the Prime Minister’s ethics adviser and said the regulator that examines ministers’s conduct after office should be beefed up.
In a letter in The Times, cabinet secretaries from Lord Butler, who served under Margaret Thatcher in 1988, to Lord Sedwill, who left the Civil Service last year, said: ‘The Government has committed to continually reinforcing high standards of conduct in public life.’
The intervention will raise the pressure on Mr Johnson over the sleaze row that has erupted since he tried to save Mr Paterson.
It came after the Business Secretary was forced to apologise to Westminster’s sleaze watchdog for suggesting she should quit.
Kwasi Kwarteng was accused of ‘bullying’ Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone when he said she should consider her position over the Paterson scandal.
In a humiliating climbdown last night, Mr Kwarteng wrote to Miss Stone to ‘apologise for any upset or distress my choice of words may have caused’.
He also acknowledged his comments could be seen as having ‘fallen short’ of the ‘high standards’ of the ministerial code, requiring ministers to treat public officials with ‘consideration and respect’.
The letter appeared to be an attempt to head off an inquiry into whether he breached the code.
It was copied to Lord Geidt, who advises Mr Johnson on the code.
Mr Johnson acknowledged on Sunday that he had bungled the issue, telling reporters: ‘Of course, I think things could certainly have been handled better, let me put it that way – by me.’
It comes as Labour launches a bid to ban MPs from acting as paid consultants.
The party will force a vote tomorrow on measures that would bar MPs from holding second jobs as consultants or company directors.