Guido is combing through the long ruling, however the conclusion is clear and unforgiving:
“This is an egregious case of paid advocacy. Previous instances have led to suspensions of 18 days, 30 days and six months. Each of Mr Paterson’s several instances of paid advocacy would merit a suspension of several days, but the fact that he has repeatedly failed to perceive his conflict of interest and used his privileged position as a Member of Parliament to secure benefits for two companies for whom he was a paid consultant, is even more concerning. He has brought the House into disrepute. We therefore recommend that Mr Paterson be suspended from the service of the House for 30 sitting days.”
Paterson has been under investigation over a £100,000-a-year ‘consultancy’ job for Randox Health, accused of “bringing the Commons into disrepute” by allegedly breaking the parliamentary rule that MPs can’t act as a “paid advocate” for a company.
A week ago a statement from Paterson to the standards watchdog was leaked, claiming the investigation had “played a huge role” in his wife’s suicide, as she feared both her and her husband would be destroyed by “erroneous” claims he was involved in a political scandal. This statement is included in the commissioner’s report, with the commissioner noting the leak to the Mail on the 19th. She was clearly furious, saying the allegations to be “potentially actionable”, the leak of which is itself a serious breach of the rule that has led to suspension previously. A 30 sitting days suspension is a hell of a rap on the knuckles…
UPDATE: Owen Paterson has released an unrepentant statement in which he argues “the process I have been subject to does not comply with natural justice.” and that the “commissioner has admitted making her mind up before speaking to me or any witnesses”.
“This is a biased process and not fair. It offends against the basic standard of procedural fairness that no one should be found guilty until they have had a chance to be heard and to present their evidence including their witnesses.
I reject completely the findings of the Committee for Parliamentary Standards. The methods of the investigation do not create a just and fair outcome. Most importantly, not one of my 17 witnesses have been interviewed during the course of the investigation despite the passage of 24 months – not by the Commissioner, and not by the Committee. These highly reputable and reliable witnesses are the very people who say I am not guilty. What court, what work- place investigation, would ignore such evidence and call its procedures fair?”
UPDATE II: Peter Shellard, Chairman of North Shropshire Conservative Association has come out in support of his MP:
“Owen is an outstanding Member of Parliament, working tirelessly for the people of North Shropshire for twenty four years. He is a trustworthy, decent and honest man.”
Read Paterson’s statement in full below: