09 November 2021

By-election triggered to replace Owen Paterson following sleaze row

09 November 2021

Voters will choose a successor to Owen Paterson next month after the Government officially triggered the by-election.

Business in the House of Commons on Tuesday started with Government whip Mark Spencer issuing the writ for the vacant North Shropshire seat.

The Standards Committee had recommended former Conservative minister Mr Paterson should be suspended from Parliament for 30 days after committing an “egregious” breach of a ban on paid lobbying by MPs.

After a botched Government bid to delay the suspension while also overhauling the standards system, Mr Paterson announced his resignation as MP for the constituency.

By-elections must take place between 21 and 27 working days from the issuing of a writ.

North Shropshire is considered to be an ultra-safe rural constituency for the Tories, with Mr Paterson having held it since 1997.

But the ongoing sleaze row has given hope to other parties contesting the seat.

Owen Paterson (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

At the 2019 general election, Mr Paterson won almost 63% of the vote and beat Labour by nearly 23,000 votes, with the Lib Dems coming third.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Spencer said: “I beg to move that Mr Speaker do issue his warrant to the clerk of the crown to make out a new writ for the electing of a member to serve in this present parliament for the county constituency of North Shropshire in the room of Owen William Paterson, who since his election to the said county constituency has been appointed to office of Steward and Bailiff of Her Majesty’s Manor of Northstead in the county of York.”

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle repeated the words before MPs approved the request unopposed.

There is no official process for an MP to stand down from the Commons and the Parliament website says that “unless they die or are expelled they must become disqualified if they wish to retire before the end of a Parliament”.

They can be made ineligible to be an MP under law by taking one of two offices of profit under the Crown, Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds, or Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.

The unpaid roles have no responsibilities and the Manor of Northstead, a former medieval estate in North Yorkshire, has been redeveloped and forms part of Scarborough.

The process allows MPs to resign within the law.

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