Ex-minister Owen Paterson Takes UK Government To Court For Breach Of Human Rights

Ex-minister Owen Paterson is taking the UK government to the European Court of Human Rights over a standards watchdog verdict that he broke lobbying rules.
Former Member of Parliament Owen Paterson
| Photo Credit: Shropsire

Former Tory Cabinet minister Owen Paterson is suing the Government after he was found last year to have broken lobbying rules. 

The former North Shropshire MP, who was one of the party’s most prominent Brexiteers, is taking action in the European Court of Human Rights over claims his right to privacy was breached.

Mr Paterson, a leading Eurosceptic who once campaigned for the UK to break away from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), argues that the standards watchdog ruling “damaged his good reputation”.

In a European court listing, he argues the investigation, by Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone, was unfair because it did not hear from witnesses and met in secret.

The former MP for North Shropshire also says he was only given 15 minutes to address the commissioner, was not permitted to be represented by a lawyer and had no right to appeal.

In response, Labour MP Chris Bryant, who chairs the standards committee, insisted Mr Paterson had been given “every opportunity” to put his case across – and his arguments had been heard “respectfully and fairly”.

In her report, Kathryn Stone described Mr Paterson’s actions as “an egregious case of paid advocacy” and recommended he be suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days.

Conservative MPs initially sought to block the suspension with the backing of No 10, but Downing Street reversed its decisions after an angry backlash.

Mr Paterson subsequently announced his resignation from Parliament saying he wanted a life “outside the cruel world of politics”.

The row severely damaged then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s reputation and is one of the factors that led to his eventual downfall.

In 2014, Mr Paterson argued in a speech that the UK should not just quit the EU but also replace the European Convention on Human Rights, on which the European Court of Human Rights adjudicates.

“This is exacerbated by the rulings of judges in the court at Strasbourg and by our own UK courts implementing the Human Rights Act.

“Repeal of the Human Rights Act and adoption of the new bill of rights, breaking free from the European Court of Human Rights, would also relieve us of migrant pressure, including such absurdities as not being able to deport illegal immigrants who come to us via Calais, because  according to our judges  France is not a “safe” country for asylum seekers.”

In a 2015 article, the former environment secretary also called for moves to “set the UK free from the ECHR”.

“Given it is legal action I can’t comment at this stage but we will respond in the normal way.” He resigned from Parliament last year after he was found to have abused his role as an MP while working for two firms as a paid consultant.

A notice published by the court this afternoon clarifies: “The applicant complains that his Article 8 rights were infringed, as the public finding that he had breached the Code of Conduct damaged his good reputation, and that the process by which the allegations against him were investigated and considered was not fair in many basic respects.”

Following an investigation by Parliament’s standards watchdog in 2021 which found he had breached the Commons code of conduct by lobbying ministers and officials for two companies paying him more than £100,000 per year.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone, recommended Mr Paterson be suspended from the Commons for 30 days as punishment.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially attempted to change the rules on standards investigations to give the then-Tory MP the chance to appeal the findings.

The court has also asked UK authorities to respond to a second complaint, submitted by former Labour peer Nazir Ahmed, who was jailed in February for a serious sexual assault against a boy and the attempted rape of a young girl in the 1970s.

The former member of the House of Lords is complaining that his right to respect for private and family life was breached and is claiming discrimination.

The European Court of Human Rights has formally asked Rishi Sunak’s Government to respond to the case.

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