Weston MP accused of 'not being up to anti-corruption role'
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Weston Labour has accused John Penrose of 'not being fit to stand' as the town’s MP due to his actions throughout the Westminster ‘sleaze’ row.
The group’s chairman has questioned Mr Penrose’s priorities in Parliament, stating he would sooner serve 'his chums in Westminster than constituents'.
The accusation comes following a 'Westminster storm in a teacup' which focussed on now-former Conservative MP Owen Paterson and ended with the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards finding him guilty of breaking lobbying rules for his consultancy role for healthcare company, Randox Laboratories.
Weston Labour chairman, James Willis-Bowen, believes that the town's MP has not made representing his constituents his main priority in Parliament.
Mr Willis-Bowen told the Mercury: "John Penrose was elected to represent the people of Weston, Worle and the villages in Westminster; however it is clear to all after this week that Mr Penrose’s primary allegiance is to the Tory Party and to his chums in Westminster.
"Mr Penrose is the UK Government’s anti-corruption Tzar, appointed to root out corruption and improve public trust in our elected officials and institutions. Well, it is clear that he is not up to the job.
"Voting in favour of the Leadsom amendment seeking to re-write Parliament’s own rules to save the skin of one of their own is indicative of a man who has failed to root out corruption and damaged public trust.
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"The people of Weston deserve better than John Penrose, as do the people of the wider UK.”
John Penrose serves as the Government’s anti-corruption champion and told the Mercury that he believes the judicial process on standards should not be decided by MPs to avoid conflicts of interest.
Mr Penrose said: "I have been pushing for stronger, tighter standards for some time – not just from MPs, but also ministers and officials on things like public contracts and election law too.
"Lobbying by MPs has been illegal for years, so adding extra rules won’t help: the answer is tighter enforcement instead, which is why I am arguing that MPs should lose the right to vote on each other’s guilt or innocence, as almost happened last week.
"That way we can be sure the system is independently clean, with no conflicts of interest."
In a letter he wrote in August, Mr Penrose put forward changes which could be made to tighten current lobbying laws.
Writing to Lord Jonathon Evans, chair of the Committee on Standards, Mr Penrose stated that companies who lobby can be doing so in a positive way, negative way or both at varying times.
He insists that Westminster 'needs an integrity system which does not assume some of them are always or uniquely good or bad' and that transparency is the only answer'.
In its own letter sent to the Mercury earlier this week, Weston Labour also requested that Mr Penrose provide clarity on his stance regarding the Open Democracy and The Sunday Times' investigation which alleges the Conservative Party has abused the honours system by offering seats in the House of Lords to a select group of party donors who pay more than £3million to the party.
It read: "Mr Penrose voted to support Government attempts to rewrite its own rules to avoid the sanctions applied by its independent standards body, and when interviewed Mr Penrose failed to provide clarity or assurance following the investigation by Open Democracy and the Sunday Times alleging 15 of the last 16 Tory party treasurers who have been offered a seat in the House of Lords having each donated more than £3million to the part."
In reply, Mr Penrose confirmed that he has regularly voted in favour of a wholly elected House of Lords with emphasis on merit and not donations.
He said: “I have voted consistently to make the House of Lords a fully-elected democratic chamber, which would solve this problem completely."
By doing so, the MPs wife, Dido Harding, who is a life peer in the House of Lords, would lose her seat.
The Electoral Commission has confirmed that Mrs Harding is not a Tory donor.
Mr Penrose added: "I am about to publish a new proposal for a ‘Points Based Honours System’ to make the entire thing more open, objective and transparent too.
"The central principle is that everyone in the second chamber should be chosen because of what they have done rather than because of any party-political donations they have made.
"But, equally, if they genuinely deserve to be appointed, then they should not be banned just because they have also donated to Labour, Conservatives or anyone else.”