Defiant Northamptonshire MP Andrea Leadsom "proud" of Commons vote which led to Boris Johnson's government coming under attack

"This is about justice for MPs being as important as justice for our constituents" says South Northamptonshire Tory

Thursday, 4th November 2021, 1:58 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th November 2021, 2:00 pm
South Northants MP Andrea Leadsom proposed the controversial amendment and has stood by her decision despite criticism

County MP Dame Andrea Leadsom insists she is "proud" to have led a controversial vote which helped a fellow Conservative MP avoid a 30-day suspension.

The South Northamptonshire Tory said she was disappointed by the outcry which followed a House of Commons vote on Wednesday (November 3) approving her amendment to defer Owen Paterson's cash for questions punishment.

Boris Johnson's government has been widely criticised following the vote.

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Writing in The Guardian, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Tory MPs had voted "to let off one of their own" adding the move would "further undermine public faith in politics at a time when we should be trying to restore decency and honesty".

He said: "That the Tories are yet again wallowing in sleaze comes as no surprise."

Six out of seven Northamptonshire MPs sparked widespread criticism by obeying a government orders to back Dame Andrea's amendment, delaying a decision on Mr Paterson's case until a new committee proposed changes to oversight rules.

But Dame Andrea said: "There is absolutely no intention to let anyone off the hook or change the rules.

"The amendment today is plain and simply looking at whether that individual had a fair investigation or not. And whether that investigation followed laws of natural justice.

"I absolutely would have put forward that amendment if it had been a Labour MP.

"This is about justice for MPs being as important as justice for our constituents.

"It's not about sleaze, not about supporting somebody so they can break the rules. I am standing up for justice and transparency and I am proud to be doing that."

Wednesday's vote was passed by 250 votes to 232, bringing cries of "shame" and "what have you done to this place" as the result was announced.

In total, 13 Conservative MPs voted against the move and a further 98 did not vote — including Northampton South MP Andrew Lewer . Tory whips claimed around 60 of those had permission to miss the vote, including Mr Lewer.

Following a two-year investigation, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards decided Mr Paterson breached rules by making multiple approaches to government departments and ministers on behalf of two companies who were paying him £100,000a-a-year as a consultant.

But the MP for North Shropshire denies the allegations, saying he was raising very serious issues about food contamination.

Mr Paterson, who was environment secretary from 2012 to 2014, also claimed the investigation "undoubtedly played a major role" in his wife, Rose Paterson, taking her own life in June 2020.

Dame Andrea, who was sacked as Trade Secretary by PM Boris Johnson last year, told Channel 4: "I made extremely clear in the amendment that what the House does is simply defer consideration of this report for three months while a select committee, which is politically balanced, will review whether the process was fair.

"I'm not forming a judgment on the facts of the case. I'm concerned that the process should be transparently fair.

"I find it disappointing there is such an outcry when I try to put forward the thesis that MPs should also be subject to the same level of justice and fairness and transparency in the investigations into their behaviour."

"I completely understand that, because its is a Conservative MP, the opposition parties have chosen to misunderstand and misinterpret what the amendment seeks to do.

"But we need to make sure that the system oversees MPs is fair as we fight day in and day out for justice for people who are not MPs."

Dame Andrea was Leader of the House of the Commons for two years from June 2017.

During Wednesday's Commons debate, Labour's Yvette Cooper said: "The right honourable Lady had considerable time to propose reforms and amendments to the Committee on Standards process, should she have chosen to do so.

"Does she not recognise that proposing reforms now, in conjunction with this individual case — where an independent investigation and an independent cross-party Committee have come to very clear conclusions about paid advocacy — undermines the decisions and integrity of this House and any positive purpose to any reforms she might want for the future?"

Dame Andrea Leadsom countered: "The answer is that I was working flat-out, on a cross-party basis, doing 18-hour days on the independent complaints and grievance scheme.

"Had I stayed in post longer, I absolutely would have looked at this review."