Tory sleaze and corruption inquiry proposed amid Owen Paterson saga

7 November 2021, 22:00

Boris Johnson remains under huge pressure following the Owen Paterson sleaze saga.
Boris Johnson remains under huge pressure following the Owen Paterson sleaze saga. Picture: Getty

The Liberal Democrats have proposed an independent sleaze and corruption inquiry in the wake of the Owen Paterson sleaze saga.

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Under the proposal floated by the party, witnesses would be compelled to provide evidence and the investigating body would be able to secure written documents.

The party wants a statutory public inquiry to be tasked with uncovering the truth behind allegations of sleaze and to make recommendations for reform, including the prospect of tougher punishments.

Former Conservative MP Mr Paterson had faced an immediate 30-day suspension over an "egregious" breach of lobbying rules.

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson's government instead sought to block this punishment and back the creation of a Tory-led committee to look again at the case while also overhauling the standards system for MPs.

A massive backlash followed, prompting a government U-turn and Mr Paterson's resignation as an MP.

An emergency debate lasting for up to three hours will take place on Monday to allow MPs to debate standards issues.

Another Lib Dem proposal is for MPs under investigation for breaking parliamentary rules to be barred from taking part in House of Commons votes on disciplinary issues.

Read more: Boris Johnson's poll rating plunges in Owen Paterson sleaze saga

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain, who secured the emergency debate, said: "We need to make sure those with a vested interest in tearing up Parliament's anti-sleaze rules don't have the power to do so.

"Last week's events were just the latest example of political cronyism and corruption, from dodgy Covid contracts to Boris Johnson's holidays secretly paid for by his wealthy donor friends.

"Time and again government ministers have refused to properly investigate allegations of sleaze, failed to declare relevant meetings and donations, and tried to rig the system to cover their own backs.

"We need an independent public inquiry, with the powers and resources to get to the bottom of this Conservative sleaze scandal."

Ms Chamberlain, who served for 12 years as a police officer before becoming an MP, added: "People around the country who play by the rules are being let down by Boris Johnson's Conservatives who think the rules just don't apply to them.

"They deserve answers over who is influencing our politics, how taxpayers' money is being spent and what is being done to hold those in power to account."