There is a rotten stench of corruption around Westminster these days. As an outside observer the handling of the fallout from allegations against the North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson look dodgy at best and downright corrupt at worst.
The Parliamentary Standards committee found Paterson to have committed an ‘egregious breach of lobbying rules’ in that he helped lobby for two firms he was being paid to advise, Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods. Substantial amounts of money were and continue to be involved. The ‘punishment’ was to be a 30 day suspension.
Paterson may get a last minute reprieve however, as the government passed an amendment to the Standards Committee report, making the current standards process redundant and setting out proposals for a new structure, involving eight backbench MPs in proportional make-up of the parties – four Conservative, three Labour and one SNP.
The process may well need an overhaul but the timing of the amendment is deeply suspect. After all, the government has had eleven years in office to make the changes and has another two at least in future to do so. Making the changes now, in effect, to change the rules retrospectively is out of order. Either the rules were wrong in the past and should have been amended or they are right and should be left to stand.
It also seems that the proposed and agreed new committee structure does not have the support of the opposition parties, nor has funding for it been agreed. How it is going to get off the ground is anyone’s guess.
Once again our unfair and skewed first past the post system has been shown up. A government which represents the minority of voters has been able to force through an amendment on the back of its perverse majority in Parliament.
The affair also highlights the obscene practice of MPs undertaking other paid work. MPs should be paid properly and focus all their attention on that role.
There is the old saying that if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it’s a duck. This affair quacks and walks like corruption. I for one, like many others, am spitting feathers!