Owen Paterson will resign as Conservative MP for North Shropshire, after being engulfed in a scandal over his breach of parliament’s lobbying rules.
A vote to veto Paterson’s proposed suspension and dismantle the standards process for MPs was rammed through parliament by Tory backbenchers and the government yesterday in a move described as “corrupt” by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
Boris Johnson today U-turned in the face of a fierce backlash and Paterson was set to be suspended next week for not disclosing his role as a £100,000 a year lobbyist for two private firms.
The Tory MP has now resigned over the row, saying he will “remain a public servant but outside the cruel world of politics”.
“I have today, after consultation with my family, and with much sadness decided to resign as the MP for North Shropshire. The last two years have been an indescribable nightmare for my family and me,” he said.
“My integrity, which I hold very dear, has been repeatedly and publicly questioned. I maintain that I am totally innocent of what I have been accused of and I acted at all times in the interests of public health and safety
“I, my family and those closest to me know the same. I am unable to clear my name under the current system.”
Parliamentary commissioner for standards Kathryn Stone ruled last month that Paterson broke lobbying rules during his work for clinical diagnostics firm Randox and manufacturer Lynn’s Country Foods.
He was paid £100,000 a year by the two firms.
Paterson contacted the Food Standards Agency, a regulator, on behalf of these firms at least 10 times and did not declare his lobbying activities, according to Stone.
Paterson, a former shadow cabinet minister, claims he only contacted the Food Standards Agency to warn them about potentially harmful products and that Stone’s investigation was biased.
“Far, far worse than having my honesty questioned was, of course, the suicide of my beloved and wonderful wife, Rose,” Paterson said.
“She was everything to my children and me. We miss her everyday and the world will always be grey, sad and ultimately meaningless without her.
“The last few days have been intolerable for us. Worst of all was seeing people, including MPs, publicly mock and deride Rose’s death and belittle our pain. My children have therefore asked me to leave politics altogether, for my sake as well as theirs.”