Calls for Owen Paterson to resign as MP faces recall petition

Political rivals have called on Owen Paterson to resign after the Shropshire MP was found to have broken Parliamentary rules on lobbying.

Owen Paterson was found to have broken Parliamentary rules on paid lobbying
Owen Paterson was found to have broken Parliamentary rules on paid lobbying

Graeme Currie - who was the Labour candidate for Mr Paterson's constituency of North Shropshire in the 2015, 2017 and 2019 elections - is also calling for a recall petition to demand a by-election.

Mr Paterson is set to be suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days after being found to have repeatedly lobbied ministers and officials on behalf of Randox and Lynn's Country Foods - companies he works for as a paid consultant.

The Commons Standards Committee said his actions were an "egregious" breach of the rules on paid advocacy by MPs.

Under the recall procedure introduced in 2015, any MP suspended for at least 10 sitting Commons days can be recalled if 10 per cent of registered voters in the constituency sign a petition.

If the threshold is reached, a by-election is held. If not, the MP remains in the seat.

Mr Currie, who has also stood for Labour in the Shropshire Council elections, said: "I know people will get behind a recall petition and I am confident that 10 per cent of local voters will support a by-election to remove him. He has brought disgrace on himself and must resign now."

Graeme Currie has stood as the Labour candidate for North Shropshire in three elections

Meanwhile Liberal Democrats in the constituency say the MP has let down those who put their trust in him.

Helen Morgan, Lib Dem spokesperson for North Shropshire, stood for Parliament in 2019.

She said the potential 30-day suspension from Parliament was a damning indictment of the Government.

“My day job is in the private sector. If I was caught using my position for personal gain, I would be fired, with no dispute," she said.

"I have debated with Mr Paterson before, and even as a political adversary have had a lot of respect for him. Sadly though, he has let down people in North Shropshire who had put their trust in him.”

“Even in rural Conservative heartlands people are losing trust in the Conservatives to do what’s best for their communities. I’m sad to say, it is a real let down for many.”

However the chairman of the local Conservative constituency party, Peter Shellard, gave the MP his backing, saying he has "serious concerns" about the conduct of the inquiry.

"He is a trustworthy, decent and honest man," he said.

"He has my unwavering support and that of the North Shropshire Conservative Association."

Owen Paterson said the inquiry had contributed to his wife's suicide

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone found that between November 2016 and November 2017 Mr Paterson made three approaches to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) relating to Randox - a clinical diagnostics company - and antibiotics in milk in breach of the ban on paid advocacy.

He was also found to have made four approaches to ministers at the Department for International Development relating to the company and blood testing technology between October 2016 and January 2017.

And Mr Paterson was found to have made seven approaches to the FSA between November 2017 and July 2018 relating to Lynn's Country Foods.

The commissioner further found that he failed to declare his interest as a paid consultant to Lynn's Country Foods in four emails to FSA officials and that he used his parliamentary office for business meetings with his clients on 25 occasions between October 2016 and February 2020.

Mr Paterson has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, saying that he wants to prove his case in court.

He has also claimed that the inquiry played a major role in the death of his wife Rose, who took her own life while the investigation was ongoing in June last year.

The MP, who was first elected in 1997, told the Shropshire Star: "I have been treated like a criminal for two years because I wanted to ensure that milk and ham were safe to eat.

"I was forbidden to say anything at all. When the committee announced the investigation I was not even allowed to say that I refuted an wrong doing. It was absolutely appalling."

Mr Paterson said he was made aware of the committee's recommendation just an hour before it was made public.

"The 30-day recommendation is really shocking an absurd. I can not accept this, I have to clear my name if it means going to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg."

Downing Street declined to say whether Boris Johnson backs the possible suspension of Mr Paterson, saying the standards regime is a matter for the House of Commons.

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