Tory MP and former minister Owen Paterson has insisted that he will “clear his name” following “two years of hell” after he was found to have breached standards.
It was ruled that he had breached parliament’s code of conduct for accepting more than £100,000 a year in total from two companies – clinical diagnostics company Randox and meat processor and distributor Lynn’s Country Foods.
He was found to have breached rules on lobbying on behalf of Randox by making three approaches to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) about the testing of antibiotics in milk in 2016 and 2017.
Following a two-year investigation, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards said Mr Paterson had breached the rule prohibiting paid advocacy by making multiple approaches to government departments and ministers for the two companies.
But Mr Paterson denies the allegations, saying he was raising very serious issues about food contamination.
He accused the commissioner, Kathryn Stone, of admitting to him she “made up her mind” before the allegations were put to him and that none of his 17 witnesses were interviewed.
In an interview with Sky News, he said that he “wouldn’t hesitate” to act in the same manner “tomorrow” and that he continues to work with the two firms.
The MP has claimed that he had been subject to a “shockingly inadequate” process and said that the stress of the investigation had “undoubtedly played a major” role in his wife Rose taking her life last year.
It comes after PM Boris Johnson secured a majority of 18 in a House of Commons vote on an amendment on Wednesday to prevent Mr Paterson from being suspended for 30 days.
The amendment tabled by Tory MP Dame Andrea Leadsom also called for the formation of a new Tory-dominated committee to examine the standards system and dictate how the case against Mr Paterson is investigated.
The move resulted in more than 100 Conservative MPs refusing to vote on the PM’s attempt to counteract parliament’s sleaze watchdog, and 13 of them defied a three-line whip in order to vote against it.
Nigel Mills, one of the MPs that defied the whip, had told The Independent it was “a dark day for integrity in our political system”.
Following the Commons vote, Mr Paterson said: “The process I was subjected to did not comply with natural justice. No proper investigation was undertaken by the commissioner or committee.
“The Standards Commissioner has admitted making up her mind before speaking to me or any witnesses.
“All I have ever asked is to have the opportunity to make my case through a fair process. The decision today in Parliament means that I will now have that opportunity.
“After two years of hell, I now have the opportunity to clear my name.
“I am extremely grateful to the PM, the Leader of the House and my colleagues for ensuring that fundamental changes will be made to internal parliamentary systems of justice.
“I hope that no other MP will ever again be subject to this shockingly inadequate process.”
The leader of the opposition, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, accused the government of corruption – adding “there is no other word for it.”
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted: “Today the Tories voted to give a green light to corruption.
“Labour will not be taking any part in this sham process or any corrupt committee.
“The Prime Minister, Conservative Ministers and MPs have brought shame on our democracy.”
Standards Committee chair, Labour MP Chris Bryant, has said that Mr Paterson had “brought the House into disrepute”.
The Tory MP’s name now risks becoming “a byword for bad behaviour,” he added.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the government’s decision to back Dame Andrea’s amendment was to ensure “due process” in standards cases, and insisted that the move was not about whether Mr Paterson was in the right or wrong.
“What happened was that Owen was sanctioned and there was no right of appeal. What Andrea Leadsom’s amendment was trying to do was essentially give some right of appeal in the process,” he told ITV’s Peston.