04 November 2021

Tory MP’s office vandalised after controversial vote to protect Owen Paterson from suspension

04 November 2021

A Conservative MP has said his office was vandalised after he voted in favour of overturning former minister Owen Paterson’s Commons suspension and reforming current standards procedures.

Peter Bone the MP for Wellingborough, urged MPs to remember what happened to Sir David Amess, who was stabbed to death while meeting constituents, as he claimed the vandalism had put his staff in danger.

On Wednesday, Tories were ordered not to back the cross-party Standards Committee’s call for Mr Paterson to be suspended from Parliament for 30 sitting days after it found he repeatedly lobbied ministers and officials for two companies paying him more than £100,000 per year.

Dozens of Tories abstained and 13 rebelled after being told to vote instead for an amendment, introduced by Dame Andrea Leadsom, to establish a new, Conservative-led, committee to reconsider both Mr Paterson’s case and whether a new standards system is needed.

After Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said he would seek “cross-party” changes to the system due to widespread outrage, Mr Bone said: “I voted for the Leadsom’s amendment as it is called, I listened to the debate and I made up my mind.

Former Cabinet minister Owen Paterson in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA) (PA Wire)

“Would the Leader of the House issue a statement reminding people in the media that all votes in this House are free and I for one, I am never going to be told by someone else how to vote my conscience?”

On the issue that concerns him the most, he added: “This morning my office was vandalised because of the way I voted last night. That puts my staff in danger, and this is not the way this should happen. We could have strong disagreements but some of us should remember what happened to Sir David Amess and perhaps our language needs to be a little temperate.”

Mr Rees-Mogg said vandalising an MP’s office because of the way they had voted seems to be a “breach of privilege”.

He told MPs: “While there are strong feelings on both sides of the House that there is a need for an appeal process, there is equally a strong feeling this should not be based on a single case or applied retrospectively. I fear last night’s debate conflated the individual case with the general concern, this link needs to be broken.”

On the Government whipping its MPs to vote for the amendment, he added: “As I understand it, all whips are attendance whips. My honourable friend is well known for his independence of mind and I am sure his constituents are aware of that, but to vandalise some member’s property or office because of the way that member had voted seems to be potentially a breach of privilege and it may be something that needs to be looked into with considerable care.”

Following comments from Mr Bone, Standards Committee chairman and Labour MP Chris Bryant said: “I think the message for all of us is that we need to be very careful when we’re talking about standards issues, as I’ve tried to be.”

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