Uk

Call for investigation into ‘co-ordinated Tory attack’ on sleaze watchdog

THE UK’s Business Secretary has made a “long-overdue” apology to Westminster‘s standards watchdog after suggesting she should consider her position while his party is being showered in allegations of sleaze.

The SNP have said that Kwasi Kwarteng’s statement was part of a “co-ordinated Tory government attack” on the standards commissioner at Westminster and are calling for an investigation.

The UK Government came under intense criticism for its ultimately botched attempt to overhaul the standards system to protect Owen Paterson from suspension, Kwarteng said it was “difficult to see what the future of the commissioner is”.

Kwarteng suggested in a letter to Kathryn Stone on Monday that he may have “fallen short” of the ministerial code and conceded he should have spoken “more carefully”.

READ MORE: Poll reveals what UK voters really think about sleaze in the Conservative Party

He was widely criticised for suggesting the parliamentary standards commissioner should consider her position in the wake of the Paterson row.

Stone’s investigation found that then-Tory MP Paterson broke Commons rules by lobbying ministers and officials on behalf of two companies that paid him more than £100,000 per year.

Kwarteng has now apologised over his comments in a letter sent to Stone and copied to Boris Johnson’s adviser on ministers’ interests, Lord Geidt.

“Having seen how my remarks have been interpreted, and reflecting on them, I recognise that in answering the question that was posed to me I should have chosen my words more carefully,” the minister wrote.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford is calling for an investigation into the attack from Tory ministers on Stone, indicating that it has been co-ordinated by Downing Street and the PM.

Blackford said: “This long-overdue apology comes after the SNP called for the Cabinet Secretary to investigate the co-ordinated Tory government attack on the standards commissioner, which appears to have been directed by Downing Street and sanctioned by Boris Johnson.

“While any apology is welcome, it doesn’t let Boris Johnson, his Tory ministers or officials off the hook for this shameful smear campaign, which has brought the UK Government into disrepute. There must be a full investigation and those responsible must be held to account. If there has been a breach of the ministerial code that could well be a resignation matter.

“Legitimate questions have been raised over whether Number 10 targeted the standards commissioner in an act of revenge and botched attempt to neuter investigations into Boris Johnson’s personal misconduct in office. That would be corruption – plain and simple.

“Boris Johnson is up to his neck in the Tory sleaze scandal. Since coming to office, he has broken the ministerial code, acted unlawfully, handed peerages and government jobs to Tory donors, and solicited dodgy donations for luxury holidays and home refurbishments. No one is above the law, including the Prime Minister. There must be full transparency and accountability.”

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has also demanded that Lord Geidt carries out an investigation, suggesting Kwarteng’s comments could amount to bullying an official.

Background

Hours before the Prime Minister U-turned on the bid to prevent Paterson’s suspension, Kwarteng was asked on Sky News whether he thought Stone should resign.

“I think it’s difficult to see what the future of the commissioner is, given the fact that we’re reviewing the process, and we’re overturning and trying to reform this whole process, but it’s up to the commissioner to decide her position,” he replied.

Pushed on what he meant by “decide her position”, Kwarteng said: “It’s up to her to do that. I mean, it’s up to anyone where they’ve made a judgment and people have sought to change that, to consider their position, that’s a natural thing, but I’m not saying she should resign.”



File source

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