Thanet MPs defend vote to change Parliamentary standards system – halting suspension of former Tory minister for breach of lobbying rules

Sir Roger Gale and Craig Mackinlay

Thanet MPs Craig Mackinlay and Sir Roger Gale have defended their vote in favour of changing the way the standards system for MPs operates – which also meant halting the suspension of a former Tory minister found to have broken lobbying rules.

Yesterday (November 3) MPs voted 250 – 232 in favour of overturning Owen Paterson’s suspension and reforming current standards procedures.

Today, there has been a government U-turn on the remit of the vote.

A detailed inquiry by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone OBE found that Mr Paterson had breached the MPs Code of Conduct by lobbying on behalf of two companies that he was being paid by.

He did this by approaching the Food Standards Agency  and Ministers at the Department for International Development relating the firms and did not declare he was being paid by them as a consultant.

He also used his parliamentary office on 25 occasions for business meetings with the clients. These actions break lobbying rules and the standards committee imposed a 30 day parliamentary ban on Mr Paterson.

Those recommendations have to have a backing vote of MPs but yesterday the majority of Conservative MPs voted for an amendment to halt Mr Paterson’s case and to bring in changes to the standards system.

Labour, SNP, Lib Dems and 13 Conservative MPs rejected the amendment and a number of Tories abstained but the vote was carried.

The vote meant Mr Paterson’s suspension was put on hold and a new Tory-majority committee to look at how investigations are carried out was proposed.

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale says he was not voting in support of Mr Paterson but for an overhaul to the standards system.

In July the MP was suspended from sitting in Parliament for one day and ordered to write a letter of apology following an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

Sir Roger was one of five Members of Parliament who were under investigation in connection with an allegation they attempted to lobby judges ahead of a court hearing for disgraced Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke.

The parliamentary commissioner for standards, Kathryn Stone, also investigated Adam Holloway, Bob Stewart, Theresa Villiers and Charlie Elphicke’s estranged wife, Natalie, who currently holds the Dover and Deal seat.

The allegations were that the group used official Commons stationery to write to judges in a bid to get intervention so references of support could be admitted when former MP Charlie Elphicke was sentenced on sexual assault charges last September.

The disgraced Tory was jailed for two years after he was found guilty of sexual assault against two women.

A letter from the MPs objected to the committee’s findings saying: “Our actions were taken in defence of the rights of ordinary and innocent citizens and not of Mr. Elphicke.”

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale

Talking of yesterday’s vote Sir Roger said: “As one who has experienced at first hand the workings of the Standards Commissioner and the Committee I am afraid that I have come to the sad conclusion that the system is deeply flawed and in need of thorough overhaul. That is why I have supported Andrea Leadsom`s reasoned amendment to the report.

“Contrary to lurid newspaper reports I am not  one of the  “Friends of Owen Paterson”, an MP that I do not know well and for whom I hold no brief either for or against, but I do believe that the time has come for the system to be reviewed and necessary changes made,

“I trust that following this week’s vote the committee chaired by John Whittingdale will deliver a system that, while holding Members to account when necessary, is fair and just.”

Craig Mackinlay

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay also voted with government. He said: “It is essential that all in Parliament uphold the highest standards in public life. There must be tough and robust checks against lobbying for profit. There must be a proper process to scrutinise and – if necessary – discipline those who do not follow the rules.

“Those rules and the process must be clear, unambiguous and sensible. Having been through a low level investigation myself in years past, I can tell you, based upon hard experience, that the process does not have those vital tenets.

“As in any normal workplace and all walks of life, people should be entitled to a fair process and the right to appeal. This is broadly what we would called ‘Natural Justice’. We all know it when we see it and I have long had my doubts as to whether the current system under the Commissioner for Standards meets that criteria.

“Parliament had recently established a panel, with members of the judiciary at its heart, to consider breaches of the code of behaviour, particularly sexual misconduct, called the Independent Expert Panel. It seems reasonable to me that similar professional judicial oversight should form a vital part of the Standards system that it currently lacks.

“The vote on November 3 was not, therefore, about Owen Paterson, this was about the robustness of the process and providing all MPs with the right to a fair hearing, particularly when judgments and sanctions could destroy lives and reputations. What the investigation into Mr Paterson has highlighted is that the process has flaws that nobody would accept in any other walk of life.

“That is why I want the Commons to seek cross-party agreement on a new appeals process whereby the conclusions of the Standards Committee and the Commissioner can be looked at. This could and in my view, should, include judicial involvement on the appeals panel.

“The vote in no way exonerates Mr Paterson. It may be that the appeals process upholds and re-affirms the original decision. Many MPs are also concerned about the length of time that this report and others have taken. In order to remain credible, the Standards Committee’s investigations must be timely.

“I do not believe the current standards system follows natural justice. It is vital that a reformed standards system commands the confidence of the House and the wider public. I am convinced that it shall and on that basis I backed the backbench amendment in the vote.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the Conservatives of ‘wallowing in sleaze’ and ‘letting off one of their own.’ Opposition parties say they will not be involved with the new Tory-led standards committee.

It has emerged today (November 4) that the resulting outcry over the vote will force a U-turn with Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg saying cross-party involvement was necessary for any standards process.

He said the debate had conflated an individual case with general concern over the system and that link needs to be broken.

Rees-Mogg said government would now aim to work on a cross-party basis to achieve improvements for future cases – indicating the Tory-led panel idea has been ditched. He did not say what the U-turn would mean for Owen Paterson.

UPDATE: Owen Paterson has today announced he will resign his MP seat.


    • Pair of them are a joke. Emailed them both this morning to let them know my views. I suggest others do the same.
      How they can day what they say with a straight face is beyond belief.

      • Gale backed it yesterday and now on the radio he is backing the opposite…
        Could not make it up…what has Thanet done to deserve this pair.

        • Your right Andrew, what a pair of hypocrites! I heard a Conservative MP on the radio who couldn’t answer the question why did he vote to change the Standards Commission, when he was a member of the Commission and had voted to suspend Patterson for 30 days? He was asked at least 5 times, and just came up with a load of blather each time, which he probably learnt from Johnson, who has perfected it!

  1. Hardly surprising that Gale and Mackinlay don’t like an independent body that has found them both wanting. Which is why no government with any moral credibility would seek to replace it with a Tory-filled committee. However a morally bankrupt, corrupt, Tory government led by a proven liar and charlaton and peopled with corrupt and lying MPs would take every step to prevent criticism of themselves and their illegal activities. We have a government of sleaze. Unfortunately it seems endemic in the Tory party.

  2. This might have had a sliver of credibility if Patterson had accepted his punishment and a new system was then agreed but it now looks like its sole purpose is to get your crony off. Labour and the SNP are both boycotting the new proposals and presumably Plaid and the SDLP will as well. That only leaves the Lib Dims (the Tories second XI) & if even they can’t stomach this stitch up, people need to draw their conclusions at the ballot box!

  3. Disgraceful, disgusting, makers of Sleaze corruption. Patterson should resign. Gale and McKinley should follow him.

  4. Any chance of another unexpected U turn and pay pensioners the triple lock increase? Plenty of dishonest rule changing here. If they want my vote they pay up, like them I will sell my vote to whomever gives me the most.

    • I only voted Tory to ensure brexit- labour certainly couldn’t be trusted. A recall system is the only answer.

      • Well done. So what has Brexit achieved for you? Do you feel better? Where are the sunny uplands? Are you pleased how “Brexit was done?”

        I have so many questions….

        Why was Brexit so important it’s the only reason you voted Tory?

        I’m genuinely intrigued by your post. I feel I could ask you enough questions to write a book.

        • Also, all the people who voted to leave the EU had no idea what they voted for at the time, because NO Terms & Conditions had been negotiated, Duurh. Oh! Forgot, someone promised if we left the EU we would receive £350million a week to go towards the NHS wern’t we, now who was that, Oh yes the proven liar Boris Johnson! sleaze, corruption, the Tories are riddled with it, and don’t know the difference just ask our 2, they are only interested in themselves!

  5. A recall system does need to be implemented in the UK, for all level of politicians and councillors.
    A petition signed by 50 percent plus 1 of the electorate in a constituency or other electoral zone would cause an automatic electoral run off.
    Obviously, only a major issue would have any elected politician facing a run off election.
    In Thanet, the unstinting and insatiable house building pogrom would be such an issue.
    Political sleaze and corruption has always existed and one of the only solutions is to have immediate voter initiation of the recall format to hold any elected representative accountable.

  6. I wonder if they are even slightly embarrassed now that Johnson has done a Uturn. Not holding my breath

  7. The barrel is full of rotten apples, here are two examples spouting forth about ‘natural justice’ when their main motivation is saving their own and their chum’s skins and reputations – they just hate getting caught and will blame the system every time.
    These two are sheep blindly following instructions from ‘the party’, just like the Tory and other party afiliated councillors at TDC – never mind the best interests of ‘the people’.

  8. Some people will still vote Tory. They know they live like Champagne Charlies but they are patiently waiting for the promised sunny uplands.

  9. Glad Paterson’s gone. To be followed, I hope, by Claudia Webbe. Rotten apples not confined to one Party but people vote for the rosette and not the person.

  10. Somehow I feel the Conservatives will win the next election though. Sir Keir is too busy gaslighting us into believing that a man can have a cervix. But I reckon the election after next will be won by Labour, or a centre-left coalition. Because by then the demand for a ‘change’ will be overwhelming, and the ‘Iraq’ thing would have expired.

  11. these two are so far up boris,s arse you can only see thier boots , craigs creeping for a ministers job , roger is looking forward to the next dog show or fete

  12. I hope we stand up in Thanet like we did to Farage and reject these two clowns finally.

    You deserve better don’t fall for these to corrupt men… Do not vote for them again. They have proved more than ever they don’t vote on your behalf.

  13. Well well, not surprising these two cretins voted the way they did. The amount of lobbying they do on behalf of their business chums is so obvious they want to be able to get away with more. Gale received a feeble one day suspension from parliament for his part in the Charlie Elphicke lobbying scandal along with writing his lines as an apology. They all need to resign in the face of this latest corruption test.

  14. It is depressing how desperately out of touch these two are and how the lack of engagement has resulted in them having safe seats as people will not vote as they consider no viable alternative and do not know anything about alternative candidates. You just have to look at recent decisions made to question their moral standing – supporting this bill, supporting a scheme to remove acute stroke services to your local hospital, writing letters in support a sex offender as he’s a friend, supporting an airport which has been demonstrated as commercially unviable, unsustainable and environmentally and ecological damaging…. I could go on but never have local representatives not listened or reflected the views of their constituency so appalling. I would be sacked at my job if o showed such incompetently or contempt for my clients….

  15. I think politics and local government are now at an all time low. Are they are only looking after number one ? I would say no but 99% are.

    Thanets two MP’s so out of touch with normal people. A blind man can see manston airport is never going to be variable. Are MP’s are in bed with RSP and a struck off solicitor, which has lead to thanet just sleep walking waiting for manston to be finally put to bed. Government that voted it’s ok for water companies to dump shit into our seas.

    Locally TDC run by CEO who has seen a legal bill of nearly a million pounds of our money to bully people who speak out against them. Than the CEO boosted that the report says she doesnt need investing lol. Really she is in charge of course any decent CEO would resign.

    Than we have the obsession with art, art for this art for that. The stupid lollipops, the money pit of the TC. It seems that every time Grant’s become available it’s for the art community.

    Is it any wonder that most people in thanet have given up on politics and local government. I can remember fake shake of ramsgate harbour !, the get your driving licence printed !, buying of cheap houses, the list goes on.

    Politics at both national and local is just a sesspit.

    But sure as night follows day come the next election thanet will stil be a torie stronghold

    • As a small-c Conservative, I was disgusted with their actions over what was a prima facie case of rule-breaking. Their arguments in defence of this shameful episode are mealy-mouthed and just plain wrong. Shame on them both.

  16. I contrast this craven contemptible display by these 2 MP’s with the sacrifice that Jo Cox, David Amess and others have made to uphold democracy and decent standards.
    Whatever your political opinions, right thinking folk, will hold Gale + Mackinlay in complete contempt, not only for their support for the trashing of the Commissioner for Standards and the Cttee that receives her reports, but for their volt-face in claiming they had nothing to do with it and were voting for something else entirely.
    The problem is come election day, they will not be held up to account.

  17. So they were “whipped” into voting like this by the PM who 24 hours later U turns to make himself look like the hero.

    Did anyone see Gale on Jeremy Vine on channel 5 – I saw a clip last night. He is an embarrassment and if you voted for him. Shame on you.

  18. Nuff said! Nothing to add that hasn’t already been said, just to add get rid of these Thanet MP’s, they are as bad Paterson, and Johnson!

  19. Not at all surprised by Gale and Mackinlay voting the way they did with them both lobbying for RSP an offshore company based in the British Virgin Isles shrouded in secrecy

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