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Shropshire MP closes down controversial thinktank

By Mark Andrews | Oswestry | News | Published:

A Shropshire MP is closing down his controversial thinktank, saying its work has been completed.

Owen Paterson MP

Owen Paterson, MP for North Shropshire, is closing the private thinktank UK 2020, which he set up in 2014.

The organisation attracted criticism from Labour after a national newspaper revealed it had funded 10 overseas trips by the former cabinet minister at a cost of nearly £39,000.

MPs are required to declare the source of funds for any overseas visit valued at more than £300. However, as a private company, his thinktank was not required to identify its donors.

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Labour had questioned whether Paterson was breaking parliamentary rules governing the conduct of MPs, because it was unclear where the donations originally came from.

In January shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett called for an investigation, saying other politicians could set up similar arrangements. This would mean they would be under no obligation to disclose the true source of donations, he said.

However, the Electoral Commission examined the complaint and ruled there were insufficient grounds to suspect a breach of political finance rules.

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Mr Paterson resigned as chairman and sole director of UK 2020 in June this year, appointing a lawyer to help wind up the organisation.

Trips funded by UK 2020 included addresses by Mr Paterson to American think-tanks the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

Other trips involved meeting politicians in Australia and examining wildlife crime in South Africa. At least three of the UK 2020-funded trips were used to promote the use of genetically-modified crop technology.

Mr Paterson said: “UK 2020 has been wound up, having achieved its objectives," which were to "research and publish optimistic, outward-looking, electorally viable conservative policies."

He added that all expenses incurred on his trips had been declared according to parliamentary rules.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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