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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Parliamentary report says North Shropshire MP broke lobbying rules

The MP for North Shropshire Owen Paterson has broken lobbying rules, according to a report by the Parliamentary Committee on Standards.

Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP – image from UK Parliament Official portraits under Creative Commons license

The Conservative MP could be suspended from parliament for 30 days for breaking MP’s Code of Conduct rules.

In a report published today by the parliamentary Committee on Standards, the commissioner concluded he misused his position to work on behalf of two firms who paid him as a consultant.

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Mr Paterson, who has been the North Shropshire MP from May 1997, has been a paid consultant to Randox, a clinical diagnostics company, since August 2015, and a paid consultant to Lynn’s Country Foods, a processor and distributor of meat products including ‘nitrite-free’ products, since December 2016.

Commission findings

The Commissioner found that Mr Paterson had breached the rule prohibiting paid advocacy in making three approaches to the Food Standards Agency relating to Randox and the testing of antibiotics in milk in November 2016 and November 2017 and in making seven approaches to the Food Standards Agency relating to Lynn’s Country Foods in November 2017, January 2018 and July 2018; and in making four approaches to Ministers at the Department for International Development relating to Randox and blood testing technology in October 2016 and January 2017.

The Commissioner also found that Mr Paterson had breached the MP’s Code of Conduct, on declarations of interest, by failing to declare his interest as a paid consultant to Lynn’s Country Foods in four emails to officials at the Food Standards Agency between 2016 and 2018.

The commission also found that Mr Paterson had breached rules on the use of parliamentary facilities, by using his parliamentary office on a number of occasions for business meetings with his clients and in sending two letters relating to his business interests, on House of Commons headed notepaper in 2016 and 2017.

The watchdog says it amounted to an egregious case of paid advocacy.

Owen Patterson response

In a long statement posted on his website, which can be read in full here – Mr Paterson says he did nothing wrong and claimed the investigation was biased and believes it played a major role in leading his wife to take her own life in June 2020.

The standards committee has recommended he be suspended from parliament for 30 sitting days, if passed it could lead to a recall petition – something that could result in a by-election in his seat.

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