Our MP, Mims Davies backed a brazen move to abolish the independent system for combating sleaze in parliament last Wednesday, in order to protect a Conservative MP who was found to have repeatedly breached lobbying rules. She claims it is because the current system does not work and lacks natural justice. Yet she voted to let off an MP who had received over £100,000 in fees to lobby for Randox Laboratories and replace independent oversight with a committee of Conservative MP’s. This was not even a considered policy change but a move to let a fellow Conservative MP off after he had been found guilty of repeatedly, lobbying officials and ministers on behalf of paying clients, something that is expressly forbidden, and is effectively corrupt practice.
The MP in question, Owen Paterson, was paid to lobby for a company that was awarded two Covid testing contracts last year worth nearly £480m without the normal competition and that failed to deliver on a contract that resulted in the recall of 750,000 unsafe testing kits. The Government has yet to set out how they will claw back taxpayers’ money that was wasted on this.
As Liberal Democrat chief whip, Wendy Chamberlain, said: “This looks like a clear attempt to weaken independent scrutiny ahead of investigations into other damaging Tory sleaze scandals, from dodgy Covid contracts to the refurbishment of Boris Johnson’s flat. The Conservatives are trying to make parliament’s watchdog toothless so it can no longer properly hold them to account.”
After the vote Government ministers lined up to effectively threaten the standards commissioner with the sack for having the temerity to do her job, our local MP should be defending those who uphold the standards of public life not voting to change the rules to favour Conservative colleagues. It is no coincidence that Boris Johnson has had multiple run-ins with the standards commissioner, with his failure to properly record paid for holidays, “donations” for redecoration, and other potential breaches of parliamentary standards. This is just as much about protecting Boris Johnson and it seems Mims Davies is quite willing to put protecting her party before protecting democracy.