MPs will vote on new rules to contain their external business interests in a new dispute over alleged “dirty tricks” by Tory and Westminster “Sleaze”.
In a surprising initiative, Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday that he would support a Labor demand for a ban on paid consulting activities.
The government effectively took over the Labor Party’s opposition day debate on Wednesday and tabled an amendment with its own proposals.
The move provoked an angry reaction from Labor, who accused ministers of “watering down” their original proposal, rendering it practically non-binding.
The Labor text calls for a ban on “any paid work for the provision of services as a parliamentary strategist, advisor or advisor”.
Crucially, it also contains provisions that require the Commons Standards Committee to come up with proposals to implement the ban and guarantee MPs time to debate and vote in parliament.
The vaguely worded government amendment, on the other hand, only describes the ban on advice as the “basis of a sustainable approach” and supports the work of the standards committee to update the code of conduct for members of parliament.
Shadow Commons Chairman Thangam Debbonaire said: “Labor has made a binding motion to begin cleaning up our policies in the wake of the Tory Sleaze scandal. The Conservatives are trying to water that down.
“Boris Johnson was cornered and accepted our request in a letter to the spokesman in a minute, but then put forward an amendment that removes the central part that guarantees action will be taken.
“These are typical dirty Tory tricks.”
A second Labor motion will seek to force the government to release minutes of meetings between ministers, officials and Randox.
Randox is the diagnostics company that employed Owen Paterson, the former cabinet secretary who started the storm, as an advisor.
Ministers hope their amendment will appease Tory MPs, who are still angry with the government’s handling of the issue, by saving them the prospect of voting against a ban on paid deliberations.
The move, however, enraged some senior Conservatives, who are angry at the prospect of abandoning lucrative consultancy contracts, although it seems unlikely that there will be enough rebels to overthrow the majority of the government.
Mr Johnson, meanwhile, continues to be investigated when he raises detailed questions from senior members of the Commons Liaison Committee on “Decency and Ethics in Government”.
The Prime Minister set out his reform proposals in a letter to President Sir Lindsay Hoyle, including two key recommendations from the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s 2018 report on MPs’ external interests.
This included changing the code of conduct so that all external work should be done “within a reasonable framework” and “does not prevent them from fully performing their tasks”. Those who fail to do so should be “investigated and adequately punished”.
His proposed changes would also prohibit MPs from accepting paid work as parliamentary strategist, advisor or advisor and from accepting payments or offers of employment as political advisor.
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson “broke in” after Labor submitted its binding opposition day motion.
“This is a prime minister who is dragged, kicked and yelled into doing whatever is standard in public life,” he said.
Last Tuesday, MPs finally voted in support of the investigation which found Mr Paterson violated the House of Commons code of conduct by advocating with ministers and officials for two companies that paid him more than £ 100,000 a year .
The unanimously adopted motion also rolled back the proposed changes to protect it from a 30-day suspension ordered by the Tory MPs just two weeks ago by the prime minister.
With many conservatives still sore after being exposed to the “sleaze” allegation of reluctantly voting for the original plan, former Prime Minister Theresa May said the attempt to save Mr Paterson was “out of place, rash.” and simply wrong “.
She warned the House of Commons that turning around on approval of the investigation by Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone would not undo “the damage that was done” for all MPs.
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