Words by Rebecca Chitolie, News Editor
MPs have been calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to address allegations of government corruption, as he faces calls for multiple ethics inquiries.
Previous events have gained fresh attention. Last month, Mr Johnson appeared to have broken parliamentary rules by failing to declare details of a luxury holiday in Spain and the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat. The government has said both were within the rules, but this has not stopped criticism.
The latest cause of concern was the accusation that the government attempted to use an inquiry into Tory MP, Owen Paterson, to sabotage the standards system carrying out the investigation.
The Parliament’s standards commissioner Kathryn Stone’s report found that Mr Paterson had repeatedly breached Commons rules banning “paid advocacy”. The Commons Standards Committee recommended that Mr Paterson be suspended for 30 days.
While MPs were asked to endorse his suspension, a group of Conservatives, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s support, blocked the recommended suspension by calling for an overhaul of the MPs’ standards system instead. Ministers changed their minds the next day, after political outcry.
Paterson has since resigned, saying the last two years had been an “indescribable nightmare”, after the public investigation and the suicide of his wife Rose in 2020. His departure has triggered a by-election in the North Shropshire seat he has held since 1997.
Environment Secretary George Eustice defended the government’s position, saying it had been trying to give politicians under investigation the right to appeal to findings used against them.
However, opposition parties as well as some Conservative MPs have criticised the government, such as former chief whip Mark Harper who urged Mr Johnson to apologise.
Leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “Instead of upholding standards, [the prime minister] ordered his MPs to protect his mate and rip up the whole system.”
“That’s corrupt and it’s contemptible and it’s not a one-off.”
Starmer suggested Johnson intended to weaken the Commons standards because he was worried his own conduct would be criticised again.
Meanwhile both Plaid Cymru and the SNP have called for a police investigation into the process of appointing Conservatives to the House of Lords.
The Sunday Times reported that 15 of the last 16 Conservative Party treasurers have been offered seats in the Lords, having each donated more than £3 million to the party.
International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan defended the appointments system, saying that a “rich mix” was desirable in the unelected chamber, and claimed that a variety of people in the Lords helps “bring extraordinary skills” to Westminster.
The Conservatives have denied any link between party donations and the nominations to sit in the Lords.