Boris Johnson’s government has been on the back foot since it tried to save Conservative MP Owen Paterson, who had broken lobbying rules. Although the government made a U-turn the following day the row has rumbled on.
The Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has accepted he was partly to blame for the government’s original decision to overlook Owen Paterson’s actions.
Mr Rees-Mogg told the Commons on Tuesday: “The tragedy that afflicted Mr Paterson coloured and clouded our judgement, and my judgement, incorrectly and it is as simple and as sad as that … I regret that the amendment conflated an individual case with more general concerns, that was a mistake.”
Mr Rees-Mogg spoke shortly before MPs voted to approve a motion following a debate. He clarified: “Today’s motion rescinds the house decision of November 3 to appoint an ad hoc committee. It also approves the third report of the committee on standards while noting Owen Paterson is no longer a member of the House.”
Paterson – whose wife committed suicide last year during a parliamentary probe into his conduct – resigned earlier this month and triggered an upcoming by-election in his North Shropshire constituency.
He told the Moggcast whole affair had been an “utter disaster” and he said Rees-Mogg would have resigned if he had “a smidgen of self-repect.”
The former prime minister Theresa May has criticised her successor for his reaction to the Paterson affair, which she said had damaged Parliament’s reputation.Mrs May said the government’s actions on 3 November were “misplaced, ill-judged and just plain wrong” and “flew in the face of the rules.
”Mrs May was speaking in a House of Commons debate on the Paterson affair which was triggered after a single Conservative MP, Sir Christopher Chope, objected to an attempt by the government to push through the U-turn on Monday night.
Chope, who is known as something of a stickler for parliamentary protocol, said overturning a motion passed only a fortnight ago was a “major constitutional decision” and should not be taken without debate.
Mrs May said passing the new motion would be “a step in the right direction, but it will not undo the damage that has been done by the vote of 3 November.”
At the weekend a barrister and former British Army medical officer from Birmingham, Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst, was chosen to be the Tory candidate to defend the seat at the 16 December by-election.