Boris Johnson’s attempt to move on from sleaze allegations battering the Conservatives was thrown into disarray when a Tory MP blocked a bid to endorse the investigation into Owen Paterson and scrap the controversial standards reforms.
Veteran Conservative Christopher Chope shouted “object” in the Commons chamber when the motion to overturn the widely criticised attempt was put forward, meaning it could not be approved on Monday evening.
The motion aimed to rescind the so-called Leadsom amendment, which looked to establish a review of the MPs standards investigation process in a bid to delay former Cabinet minister Mr Paterson’s suspension for breaking lobbying rules.
Commons will “fall into further disrepute”
The Government has now moved to bring forward the motion again, with the matter listed on Tuesday’s Commons agenda.
The motion also sought to endorse the committee’s report which would have suspended Mr Paterson from Parliament for 30 days if he had remained an MP.
He quit as the Conservative MP for North Shropshire following the botched attempt by the Government to delay his suspension.
Mr Bryant warned that the Commons would “fall into further disrepute” if it does not bring forward the motion “as soon as possible with proper time allocated”.
The SNP’s shadow Commons leader Pete Wishart, who was in the chamber at the time, said attempts to settle the matter swiftly on Monday night ended “in misery and failure”.
“That all went badly wrong when Christopher Chope piped up to object,” he told the PA news agency.
“Daggers being flung backwards”
Mr Wishart claimed there were metaphorical “daggers being flung backwards” at Mr Chope by Government chief whip Mark Spencer.
For Labour, shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire accused the Conservatives of failing to “clear up their own mess”.
The chaos came as every living former Cabinet secretary urged Mr Johnson to strengthen standards rules for ministers to make it harder for any who try to cheat the system.
The five former civil service heads, including Lord Sedwill, who stepped down from the role last year, also called for the ministerial standards adviser to be given a statutory basis.
In a letter to The Times, they said that the ministerial code must be “strictly enforced” and added: “People may find ways round whatever rules there are, and we should aim to frame regulations to make cheating them harder.”
In 2018, Chope was again the lone MP to block attempts to make upskirting a specific criminal offence punishable by up to two years in prison.
The voyeurism (offences) bill on upskirting – the taking of surreptitious, sexually intrusive images – was put forward by the Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse after a campaign by Gina Martin.
However, when the deputy speaker Lindsay Hoyle read out the name of the bill later that day, the Tory MP Christopher Chope shouted: “Object”. Without sufficient time in the session for a proper vote it was sent back for another try on 6 July.