Boris Johnson is looking to replace the Commons standard watchdog in the middle of the ‘lobbying’ row

Boris Johnson will try to reform the House of Commons’ standards following their decision to exclude Owen Paterson, the former minister, from parliament.

Tory MPs and ministers will be ordered by government whips to support a backward movement that could lead to the dissolution of the Commons Standard Committee system and a new body.

Ministers believe that this unprecedented move could lead to the resignation of Kathryn Stone, the Commons’ standard commissioner, who has been accused of bias against the Tories and Brexiteers.

John Whittingdale, the former Conservative culture secretary, has been nominated to chair a newly elected committee of nine people appointed by the government, which is likely to redraw the rules on the conduct of MPs.

MPs had been expected to vote on a proposal to exclude Mr Paterson from the Commons for 30 days for alleged breaches of lobbying rules, which could have led to him facing a by-election.

An amendment to the proposal made Tuesday night by Dame Andrea Leadsom, a former leader of the House of Commons, is likely to lead to the breakdown of the current standard monitoring system if adopted.

The proposal, which will be formally announced on Wednesday morning, is to be chosen by Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons speaker, following the Prime Minister’s questions for debate.

A senior cabinet source said the proposed punishment for Mr Paterson – whose wife Rose took her own life last year, midway through the investigation – was “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

Leadsom change

The Leadsom amendment recommends that “the current standard system should give Members of Parliament the same or similar rights as those who are the subject of investigations into alleged misconduct in other workplaces and in other professions”.

It would include “the right to representation, questioning of witnesses and appeal”, it states.

It proposes that the new Whittingdale Committee will include four Tory MPs, three Labor MPs and one SNP MP.

Nominations for the new positions must be made no later than 15 November. The committee will be allowed to appoint legal advisers to assist with the review. Its results will be reported before February 3rd.

The Leadsom change is supported by senior tories, including Sir Bernard Jenkin, a member of the Standards Committee, who declined the Paterson report because of his friendship with him, and Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former party leader.

Sir Bernard – who is also chairman of the House of Commons’ liaison committee – wrote in House magazine that Mrs Stone’s role in the future “should be shared”.

He said: “The Commissioner should investigate but not judge. Judgment should be independent and separate.

“And there should be an additional person or body that promotes members’ positive learning and professional development in matters of ethics and standards, as in other professions.

“The Standards Committee should have the appropriate powers – and time – to oversee the functioning of the system, but should no longer rule on individual cases.

“Members of parliament who judge by the behavior of their own colleagues, as they know it, can never gain public confidence. It would never be allowed in the General Medical Council or in the Bar Council.”

Pressure on the standard commissioner

Ms Stone has repeatedly been a thorn in the side of the best tories and launched a study on the funding of Boris Johnson’s luxury holiday in Mustique.


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