Who is Owen Paterson? Top MP who broke sleaze rules and faces crunch suspension vote – as he tries to save career


TOP Tory Owen Paterson is today fighting to save his career from claims he used his job as an MP to benefit two companies that paid him big bucks.

He’s been an MP for 24 years and served in two Cabinet posts but now faces a months’ ban from the Commons and even a byelection battle.

Owen Paterson faces a crunch suspension vote today

Furious Mr Paterson accuses Parliament’s sleaze watchdog of conducting a witch-hunt against him, says the investigation was flawed and that he’s innocent.

And overnight it’s emerged Conservative colleagues are plotting to rip up the entire rulebook in a dramatic bid to save their colleague.

It’s sparked a furious row and accusations of MPs marking their own homework that will come to a crunch in Westminster this afternoon.

Case against

An investigation by Commons chief sleaze-buster Kathryn Stone found that Mr Paterson breached rules by lobbying for two firms that paid him £112,000.

Ms Stone says he contacted government ministers and officials on behalf of lab firm Randox and meat supplier Lynn’s Country Foods in a way that could have benefitted them.

The probe found he also inappropriately used his office in Parliament and Commons-headed notepaper for business affairs

A cross-party standards committee of MPs endorsed Ms Stone’s decision and recommended Mr Paterson be suspended for 30 days.

Case for the defence

Mr Paterson denies almost all wrongdoing and has tore into Ms Stone and the investigation into him.

He claims he used the meetings to raise issues of public health such as contaminated milk – which he says he discovered through his work with the companies but was not seeking to make them money.

The MP has directly attacked Ms Stone for only speaking with him after she had made up her mind and for refusing to call 17 of his witnesses who he says would exonerate him.

Mr Paterson said the two-year probe was so distressing it helped drive his wife Rose to suicide in the summer of last year.

What’s at stake

MPs are today due to vote on whether to suspend Mr Paterson from the House of Commons for 30 days.

If it passes he’s vulnerable to a byelection if angry North Shropshire constituents demand he’s recalled.

Any MP suspended from the Commons for 10 days can be recalled if 10 per cent of constituents vote to do so.

Here come the cavalry

Usually MPs nod through the standards’ committee’s recommendations – but today there’s a Tory plot afoot to save Mr Paterson.

The Government is backing a dramatic attempt pause the vote while the parliamentary rulebook is overhauled.

Led by former Cabinet Minister Andrea Leadsom, it would create a new committee with a Tory majority.

Speaker Lindsay Hoyle has selected the amendment paving the way Mr Paterson to be saved.