Boris Johnson is grilled on the handling of Owen Paterson saga
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The Chancellor offered his frank assessment prior to a tense five-hour Cabinet meeting during which the controversy was high on agenda, with heavyweights including Health Secretary Sajid David and Housing Secretary Michael Gove also in attendance. Mr Paterson, 65, MP for North Shropshire, was in October found by Parliament’s Standards Committee to have lobbied for two companies which paid him than £100,000 a year.
The Chancellor offered his frank assessment prior to a tense five-hour Cabinet meeting during which the controversy was high on agenda, with heavyweights including Health Secretary Sajid David and Housing Secretary Michael Gove also in attendance.
Mr Paterson, 65, MP for North Shropshire, was in October found by Parliament’s Standards Committee to have lobbied for two companies which paid him than £100,000 a year.
Last Wednesday, MPs were told to vote for a new committee to consider an altered system of appeals and to review Mr Paterson’s recommended suspension, only for ministers to backtrack hours later after opposition parties refused to co-operate.
Mr Paterson, who vehemently denied the accusations against him, subsequently resigned his seat, taking a parting shot at what he called the “cruel world of politics”.
Express.co.uk understands Mr Sunak has been left unhappy at the decision to order Tory MPs for vote for the amendment, submitted by former Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom, to tear up the rulebook.
Speaking in advance of the Cabinet showdown, he said: “People will have different motivations for doing what they do, the pay is set by an independent body, that’s absolutely right.
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It’s fair to say that we need to do better than we did last week
“And with regard to second jobs, there’s an independent process that we have that’s set by Parliament that governs all of those things.
“And it’s absolutely right that that process is followed to the letter.”
However, significantly, he added: “Now look, on the broader point – and just reflecting over recent events – I think for us as a Government, it’s fair to say that we need to do better than we did last week, and we know that.”
One ally of Mr Sunak told the Mail he regarded the events of last week as a “mistake” which needed to be acknowledged by somebody within cabinet.
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Another Cabinet source said Mr Johnson had “f***ed up”, with the attempt to set aside Mr Paterson’s suspension looking “totally crooked”.
Meanwhile Andrew Bowie, the Tory MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, this week announced his decision to “step back” as vice-chairman of the Conservative Party.
Officially he said he wanted to spend more time on constituency work, but one friend told the Reaction website he was nevertheless “unable to support the government” in the wake of the Paterson controversy.
Labour has taken the opportunity to put the Tories on the spot over alleged corruption, especially after revelations about former Attorney General Sir Geoffrey Cox.
Sir Geoffrey is under scrutiny as a result of earning hundreds of thousands of pounds as a top QC while also the MP for Torridge and West Devon, including representing the British Virgin Islands in a corruption probe brought by the UK Government.
Mr Johnson has so far refused to apologise for the handling of the Paterson affair, telling Sky prior to a Parliamentary debate on the subject on Monday, which he did not attend: “We are going to make every effort to get it right.
“We are going to hold MPs to account. MPs should not break the rules.”
Pressed on the matter, he added: “I don’t think there’s much more to be said about that particular case, I really don’t.
“But what we do need to do is look also at the process, and that is what we were trying to do last week.”
However, speaking on Wednesday, he appeared to censure Sir Geoffrey, saying: “On second jobs, I would say that for hundreds of years MPs have gone to Parliament and also done work as doctors, lawyers or soldiers or firefighters or writers, or all sorts of other trades and callings.
‘But, if that system is going to continue today, then it is crucial that MPs follow the rules.
‘And the rules say two crucial things: you must put your job as an MP first and you must devote yourself primarily and above all to your constituents and the people who send you to Westminster, to Parliament.”
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