Emergency debate on Parliamentary sleaze

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‘LAST WEEK was a very dark week for Parliament,’ speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle said in an extraordinary interview with the media outside Westminster yesterday. ‘I don’t want another week like that,’ he added.

He was speaking ahead of an emergency debate on lobbying in the wake of the row over Tory MP Owen Paterson.

Paterson, who has now quit as an MP, was found to have used his position to lobby for two firms paying him – reigniting debates over MPs’ outside employment.

In his interview, Hoyle said: ‘We have got to move forward. That is why it is so important that I granted the SO24 (emergency debate) that will still be heard today. And let’s listen to what that SO24 throws up, let’s listen to the views of MPs and then let’s move forward.

‘People will make their own minds up where they need to be. The Prime Minister, if he comes will be damned and be damned if he doesn’t. He isn’t going to win on this one.

‘This is about Parliament and this is about us having that debate. Today’s debate will be painful, but the one thing is, it has got to cleanse the House to move forward.

‘Of course I was not happy with last week, and certainly it was not good for Parliament.

‘The faith of trust must be re-built. We should not have got ourselves into this position. What we have to do is get out of this position.’

Later that afternoon Wendy Chamberlain, Liberal Democrat for North East Fife, opened the emergency debate.

She told Parliament: ‘The actions of the government last week have tarnished the reputation of Parliament.

‘We are all tarnished with the government’s brush, we have all been seen in the eyes of the public as being involved in sleaze.

‘What gives the government the right to change the rules when they do not suit them?’

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Labour MP for Slough, interjected: ‘When I was first elected to this House I was incredibly proud because I thought that members conducted themselves with honour and integrity.

‘I thought that we were not ruled by a Prime Minister, a tin pot dictator, who himself is mired in sleaze.’

Chamberlain continued: ‘Back in May 2020, Dominic Cummings took a trip to Barnard Castle in flagrant breach of Covid regulations. Then it was the Home Secretary in breach of the ministerial code, but let off … and then the then health secretary breaching Covid guidance he had instructed others to follow, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.’

Speaking on behalf of PM Johnson, Stephen Barclay, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, replied to jeers: ‘The Prime Minister has been listening carefully to the concerns raised by all honourable members on all sides of the House.’

He said: ‘I would like first and foremost to express my regret and that of my ministerial colleagues over the mistake made last week.

‘Whilst sincerely held concerns clearly warrant further attention, the manner in which the government approached last weeks debate conflated them with the response to an individual’s case.’

Peter Kyle, Labour Hove, said: ‘He has already offered one apology. Can I ask him to give another?

‘And that is to residents who live in constituencies that have MPs that his front bench and whips were threatening to withdraw spending in their community, just to punish them for thinking about not voting for the amendment last week.

‘Can he apologise to those residents? They are innocent bystanders. And it is not their fault that they can have money taken out of their community simply because of something that their MP does simply on a matter of conscience.’