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Douglas Ross criticises UK Government over ‘wrong’ Owen Paterson vote

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross criticised the botched handling of a Commons vote on the future of a party MP, as he welcomed a humiliating U-turn by the Government.

The Moray MP did not speak out publicly with his critical view before the crucial vote on Owen Paterson’s suspension on Wednesday afternoon.

Mr Ross avoided the controversial vote, in which four of his Scottish Tory colleagues sided with Boris Johnson.

In the wake of an embarrassing climbdown by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday, Mr Ross said the “right decision has now been reached”.

Mr Ross and his fellow Scottish Tory MPs had come under fire for failing to vote against a plan to save Mr Paterson from suspension by overhauling the entire system.

However, after the proposal sparked a furious backlash, Mr Johnson performed a U-turn and promised MPs a fresh vote on the former minister’s suspension for breaching of lobbying rules.

Mr Paterson subsequently announced his resignation as MP for North Shropshire on Thursday afternoon.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

An investigation by Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone had previously found that Mr Paterson had repeatedly lobbied ministers and officials on behalf of two companies for which he was acting as a paid consultant – Randox, and Lynn’s Country Foods.

The Commons Standards Committee said his actions were an “egregious” breach of the rules on paid advocacy by MPs and recommended that he should be suspended for 30 sitting days.

How did they vote?

The committee’s recommendations are normally rubber-stamped by MPs, but on Wednesday, the Conservative government ordered its MPs to vote for an amendment to halt the case and set up a new structure to change the standards system.

It was carried by 18 votes, despite Labour, the SNP and Lib Dems voting against the proposals, along with 13 Conservative MPs.

Four of the six Scottish Conservative MPs voted for the amendment, with Mr Ross and Scottish Secretary Alister Jack failing to vote.

It should never have happened in the first place.

Douglas Ross

Mr Ross said: “This was the wrong decision. I made it clear I couldn’t support changing a process while a member was being investigated.

“I’m glad the right decision has now been reached, although it should never have happened in the first place.”

Owen Paterson MP.

John Lamont MP said: “Mr Paterson’s decision to resign is the right one.

“It was my intention to vote for his suspension next week.

“Given the widespread concerns about the process by which MPs are investigated and the lack of a fair appeals mechanism, it is correct that the whole process is now reviewed on a cross party basis.”

Conservative MPs expressed anger over the affair after they were ordered to back the controversial move that triggered a new sleaze row just a day before the U-turn.

The climbdown came shortly after Lord Evans, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, condemned the plans as being “deeply at odds with the best traditions of British democracy”.

Moments later, Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg announced ministers would seek “cross-party” changes to the system after acknowledging a “certain amount of controversy”.

How 6 Scottish Conservatives helped save sleaze row MP from suspension

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