MPs launched a blistering attack on an absent Boris Johnson during an emergency debate on the Owen Paterson sleaze scandal.
Labour leader Keir Starmer accused the prime minister of “giving the green light to corruption” after his government tried to overturn the suspension of shamed former cabinet minister Paterson, before trying to shut down parliament’s standards committee entirely.
An investigation found Paterson had lobbied ministers on behalf of companies which were paying him around £100,000 as a consultant. He was set to be handed a 30-day suspension for the “egregious case of paid advocacy”, but the government instead proposed a new Conservative-led committee to monitor MPs’ conduct.
As the scandal reached boiling point, Paterson resigned as an MP and said he would pursue interests outside of public life. But Commons ire was directed at Boris Johnson, who claimed a “long-standing” commitment to visit a hospital in Northumberland meant he could not be present at the debate.
“He does not even have the decency to come here either to defend what he did or apologise for his actions,” Starmer said.
“The prime minister is running scared. When required to lead he’s chosen to hide.