British government must withdraw amendment of statutes

Noh, sharp criticism from many quarters, the British government on Thursday declared an amendment to the statutes null and void, which it had only implemented the day before against great opposition in the House of Commons. With the reform of the internal parliamentary control body, a member of the Conservative Party would have been saved from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension for several weeks. Not only opposition politicians had spoken of a “disgrace” and accused Johnson of “corruption”. The Tories had also spoken of a “colossal misjudgment” by the Prime Minister. Owen Paterson, who was at stake, drew the consequences on Thursday and resigned his parliamentary seat.

The reason for the reform was the investigation by the “Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards”, Kathryn Stone, against the Tory MP and former Environment Minister Owen Paterson. In October, after two years of investigations, Paterson was charged with “mixing political and private interests” and recommended that Parliament be temporarily excluded from the House of Commons because of the damage to its reputation.

Stone is supervised by the “Committee for Standards”, which consists of half MPs and half party members with supervisory experience. The House of Commons decided on Wednesday to replace it with a new body consisting only of MPs in which the ruling party has a majority of one vote. As a result, the opposition factions announced that they would boycott the body.

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Now the institutional reform is to be put to the vote again by the parliamentarians. This, a government spokesman signaled on Thursday, would take place quickly and, unlike on Wednesday, without parliamentary pressure.

Paterson has always protested his innocence and complained that the investigation against him did not serve any “natural justice”. He was only heard personally towards the end of the investigation. The investigating officer would not have heard any of his 17 exonerating witnesses until the end. Paterson’s allegation was emotionally charged after he attributed complicity in his wife’s suicide to the investigation. The members of the investigative committee admitted that not only should the exonerating witnesses have their say in writing, but an oral hearing would not have changed the result.

In at least 14 cases, Paterson contacted the Food Safety Inspectorate and the Development Aid Department in order to obtain “benefits” for a medical company and a meat producer with whom he had high-quality consulting contracts. Paterson alleged that he acted in the public interest rather than the company and in some cases even warned of product problems. Now that he has resigned his mandate, there will be a new election in his constituency.

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