| Owen Paterson |
|Born||Owen William Paterson|
Whitchurch, Shropshire, England
|Alma mater||Corpus Christi College (Cambridge)|
|Children|| • Felix Ned|
|Member of||Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China|
Owen William Paterson (born 24 June 1956) is a Conservative Party politician who was the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from 2012 to 2014. He was first elected as the Member of Parliament for North Shropshire at the UK/1997 General Election.
Owen Paterson was appointed to the Shadow Cabinet of David Cameron in 2007 as Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. During the formation of the Coalition Government in 2010, he was appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, where he remained until being moved to DEFRA in 2012. He has since been more widely known as a leading supporter of Brexit and an outspoken critic of the European Union.
Following Owen Paterson's resignation from the House of Commons on 4 November 2021, a by-election in his North Shropshire constituency was arranged to be held on 16 December 2021.
In 2014, Owen Paterson established and became the Chairman of UK 2020, a right-wing think tank based in Westminster. In 2016, Paterson joined the political advisory board of Leave Means Leave.
Paterson as Consultant
Since being returned to the backbenches Paterson has gained substantial income from a range of consultancy activities.
Besides his salary as an MP, Paterson is reported to earn £8,333 a month for a monthly commitment of 16 hours from Randox Laboratories, Northern Ireland. In March 2020, Metro News reported that Randox has been selling a rapid ‘COVID-19 home testing kit’ priced at £120 which purports to be ‘the only test in the world that can identify the lethal strain and differentiate between other non-lethal variants with the same symptoms’. On 11 May 2020, The Guardian reported that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has awarded Randox a £133 million contract to produce testing kits to help respond to the coronavirus pandemic. It was awarded “without prior publication of a call for competition”, according to details of the contract seen by The Guardian.
Paterson also receives £2,000 for 4 hrs every other month (24 hrs a year) to a total of £12,000 per annum from Lynn's Country Foods Ltd, a Northern Ireland based processor and distributor of sausages. He received payment of £4,399.06 from the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association Ltd for a single speech.
£480 million contract
On 18 February 2021, Will Thorpe tweeted:
- "Amazing stroke of luck for Tory MP Owen Paterson after Randox, the company that pays him £100k a year as an adviser, is awarded £480m worth of Covid contracts without tender."
"An egregious case of paid advocacy"
On 26 October 2021, The Guardian reported that Owen Paterson faces a 30-day suspension from the House of Commons after he was found to have breached paid advocacy rules by lobbying for two firms he was paid to advise – Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods.
An investigation launched in October 2019 by Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, revealed Paterson had made three approaches to the Food Standards Agency relating to Randox and the testing of antibiotics in milk; seven approaches to the same agency relating to Lynn’s Country Foods; and four approaches to ministers at the Department for International Development relating to Randox and blood testing technology.
Following Stone’s investigation, the Commons Select Committee on Standards launched its own investigation, and the results of both were published on Tuesday, 26 October. The Committee revealed Paterson had failed to declare his interest and used his parliamentary office on at least 16 occasions for business meetings with his clients between October 2016 and February 2020, and sent two letters relating to his business interests on taxpayer-funded Commons-headed notepaper.
Paterson was also found to have committed “an egregious case of paid advocacy”, “repeatedly used his privileged position to benefit two companies for whom he was a paid consultant”, and brought the Commons into disrepute. In recommending Paterson be suspended from the Commons for 30 sitting days, the Committee said:
“No previous case of paid advocacy has seen so many breaches or such a clear pattern of behaviour in failing to separate private and public interests.”
The House of Commons may suspend an MP following a report by the Committee. Under the Recall of MPs Act 2015, if the period of suspension is at least 14 calendar days or 10 sitting days, the Speaker informs the constituency's petitions officer, who then orders a recall petition, which may result in the MP losing their seat.
Decision to resign
On 4 November 2021, Owen Paterson decided to resign as an MP after 24 years, and after he was found by Parliament's independent sleaze investigator to have broken lobbying rules during his £110,000-a-year private sector work. In a statement Owen Paterson said:
"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. 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."
Paterson was last month found by a Commons watchdog to have "repeatedly used his privileged position" to benefit Randox, a clinical diagnostics company, and Lynn's Country Foods, a meat processor and distributor.
He has continually declared himself "not guilty" and strongly criticised the investigation into his private sector work, which he said saw him raise serious issues about food contamination during his contact with officials.
Paterson has also said the investigation into him "undoubtedly played a major role" in his wife, Rose Paterson, taking her own life in June last year.
In his resignation statement, he maintained that he "acted at all times in the interests of public health and safety" and claimed the current standards system in Parliament would leave him "unable to clear my name".
"Far, far worse than having my honesty questioned was, of course, the suicide of my beloved and wonderful wife, Rose," he added.
"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.
"I agree with them. I do not want my wife's memory and reputation to become a political football. Above all, I always put my family first."
Hang on a minute
Under a Resolution of the House of 2 March 1623, Members of Parliament cannot directly resign their seats. Death, disqualification, elevation to Peerage, dissolution or expulsion are the only causes by which a Member’s seat can be vacated. Therefore, an MP wishing to resign has to be appointed to a paid office of the Crown, which automatically disqualifies the Member from holding a seat in the House of Commons.
There are currently two nominal offices of profit under the Crown:
- Crown Steward and Bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham, and
- Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead
MPs can be appointed to these offices during a parliamentary recess, but the Speaker cannot issue a writ for the ensuing by-election until the House is sitting.
Baron Paterson of Randox?
On 5 November 2021, still describing himself on Twitter as Member of Parliament for Shropshire North, Owen Paterson tweeted:
Thank you to the many people who have sent their kind wishes to me and my family this week. At this difficult time, I will be stepping aside from my current consultancy work to focus on my family and suicide prevention.
To which Dave Lawrence replied:
And so if the peerage is offered it will be rejected we assume on the basis it will drag the whole sorry mess back up and discredit the Government even further - if indeed that can actually happen.
On 6 November 2021, former Prime Minister John Major was interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme. Asked about reports Owen Paterson could receive a peerage, Sir John said he thought it "would be rather extraordinary if that happens" - adding that he was unsure it would be approved.
- "Her Majesty’s Government"
- "What next as North Shropshire by-election is officially confirmed?"
- "Co-Chairmen – Political Advisory Board – Supporters"
- "North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson denies breaking lobbying rules"
- "Tory MP paid £100,000 a year by company selling £120 private coronavirus tests"
- "They work for you"
- "Amazing stroke of luck for Tory MP Owen Paterson after Randox, the company that pays him £100k a year as an adviser, is awarded £480m worth of Covid contracts without tender"
- "MP Owen Paterson faces suspension for breaking lobbying rules"
- "Owen Paterson resigns: Conservative ex-minister quits as MP after row over House of Commons suspension"
- "Resignation from the House of Commons"
- "Appointments to the Chiltern Hundreds and Manor of Northstead Stewardships since 1880"
- "Still Member of Parliament for Shropshire North"
- "And so if the peerage is offered it will be rejected we assume"
- "Ex-PM John Major: Government handling of Paterson case shameful"
- Sam Coates & Francis Elliot, The Times, July 17, 2008 ("Tory MPs' use of staff budgets to pay for PR advice 'against rules'")