Four Suffolk MPs defy government over controversial standards reform
- Credit: Elaine Bryce
Four Suffolk MPs did not back the government in a controversial vote over parliamentary standards which led to a senior Tory quitting his seat in parliament.
Of the county's seven MPs just Tom Hunt, Jo Churchill and James Cartlidge voted in favour of the motion which will see a Tory-led panel consider reforming the disciplinary process after a former cabinet minister was found to have repeatedly lobbied ministers and officials for two companies paying him more than £100,000 per year.
Therese Coffey, Dan Poulter, Peter Aldous and Matt Hancock did not vote on the matter despite the government ordering its MPs to vote in favour of the motion in the strongest possible way — called a 'three line whip'.
The motion passed with a majority of 18.
As a result Owen Paterson, a former cabinet minister, escaped suspension from parliament after being found to have repeatedly lobbied on behalf of two companies for which he was acting as a paid consultant – Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods.
He claimed the investigation was unfairly conducted and argued the manner in which it was carried out had played a “major role” in his wife Rose’s suicide last year.
But on Thursday afternoon, Mr Paterson quit as MP for North Shropshire after the Prime Minister was forced into a retreat following outrage over the vote.
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Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and north Ipswich, said he was having his third Covid jab at the time of the votes.
"Had I been present I would have been unable to support the government," he said. "Usually, matters of MPs' standards and conduct are not voted upon and the standards commissioners recommendations are accepted without a vote.
"I do agree that the MP standards system is hopelessly out of date, lacks elements of natural justice and needs reform in order to bring it more in line with professional regulation for doctors and solicitors."
Peter Aldous, Waveney MP, said he did not vote for the motion as it lumped a review of the case of MP Owen Paterson along with a review of parliamentary standards. Dr Poulter added he did not believe the two issues "should not have been conflated".
Mr Aldous said: "The very tragic circumstances that the latter part of the inquiry was being carried against the backdrop of, but I reached the conclusion it had been a very thorough and comprehensive inquiry that had looked at all the factors and considerations and reached a conclusion I could understand.
"I am aware that Mr Paterson feels that he was denied natural justice, and there are aspects of the whole system that I think it is appropriate to look at.
"But I think the government made a mistake to come forward with a review of this particular case and it would have been far better if the two had been separated."