The vast majority of Conservative MPs have snubbed a Commons debate on standards following the row over Owen Paterson.
Tory benches were largely empty as MPs convened to discuss the fall-out of last week’s events, which shook the Houses of Parliament.
Many Tories are still smarting after being ordered to vote for a new committee to consider a new system of appeals for MPs found to have broken the rules, only for the Government to backtrack after the opposition parties refused to co-operate.
In the bitter aftermath of the row, Mr Paterson, the former cabinet minister at the centre of the dispute, announced he was quitting as MP for North Shropshire blaming the “cruel world of politics”.
“Egregious” breach of standards
It followed a recommendation by the Commons Standards Committee that he should be suspended from Parliament for six weeks after committing an “egregious” breach of the centuries old ban on paid lobbying by MPs.
Mr Paterson had hoped to challenge the finding through a new appeals system but there was anger among MPs on all sides of the House at the way ministers had sought to conflate his case with wider reform of the system.
Speaking ahead of the debate, Sir Lindsay Hoyle said MPs now needed to move forward after a “very dark week for Parliament”.
“I don’t want another week like that, we’ve got to move forward,” he told Sky News.
“This House matters to me, the MPs matter, the people who work here matter to me, and what I don’t want is another dark week like last week.
“I want to make sure the public have faith in parliamentarians and faith in the House of Commons, and today’s debate will be painful, but the one thing is, it’s got to cleanse the House to move forward.”
Johnson was accused of “running scared” after deciding to stay away from the emergency debate.
Downing Street said the Prime Minister was unable to get back to Westminster in time following a long-planned visit to an NHS hospital trust in Northumberland.
Instead the Cabinet Office minister Stephen Barclay will open the debate for the Government amid continuing anger among some Tory MPs over the way the issue has been handled by ministers.
Sir Keir Starmer, who will lead for Labour, said the Prime Minister had chosen to hide away rather than address the mess he had created.