Owen Paterson: House of Lords appointment would be 'grotesque' and 'offensive', says Sturgeon

ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Weiner gauges reaction from residents in Owen Paterson's North Shropshire constituency to his resignation

Appointing Owen Paterson to the House of Lords would be "grotesque" and "offensive", Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesperson refused to rule out a peerage for Mr Paterson, who resigned as an MP this week amid a lobbying scandal, on Friday.

Speaking to media at the COP26 climate summit, Ms Sturgeon said it would be "classic corruption" if Mr Paterson is put back into politics via the House of Lords.

Why are some Tory backbenchers angry at the way the government handled the standards reform vote?

The comments follow the government's humiliating U-turn on Owen Paterson's suspension from Parliament.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said on Friday that the government had made a "mistake" conflating standards reform with a vote on the Conservative MP's suspension.

Backing Mr Paterson by voting on wider standards of reform was "not deliberate", Nadhim Zahawi has said.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said on Friday that the government had made a "mistake", before making a U-turn on Owen Paterson. Credit: PA

What is this controversy all about?

Zahawi's comments come after the government faced a backlash following a vote that prevented Mr Paterson’s immediate suspension by launching a review of the entire disciplinary system.

The controversial plan was backed by almost 250 Tory MPs on Wednesday, although there was a sizeable rebellion and by Thursday morning the government was forced into a U-turn, blaming a lack of cross-party support.

Mr Paterson then announced his resignation amid widespread condemnation of the government's actions.

The farcical events have left the Tory party embroiled in allegations of sleaze.

What has the government said now Mr Paterson has resigned?

On Friday, the education secretary said the government cannot be complacent in the face of perceptions of sleaze.

Asked on LBC about opinion polling following the Paterson row, Mr Zahawi said: “I take from it that we can’t be complacent, that it was right to come back to Parliament and say we made a mistake.

“I think actually people, listeners, participants in polls, will understand that it is only human when you know you’ve made a mistake to come back and say we made a mistake and we’re going to correct it.

“And that we want a fairer system of appeals. They know that because it’s right in other walks of life and other sectors of the economy."

He told Sky News, he took "collective responsibility" over the government U-turn.

"We voted because I thought improving the system and introducing the right of appeal, as you would have in many sectors of the economy, in many professions…. there’s a fairness argument here.

“But upon reflection I do think it’s a mistake to have conflated that with the specific issue around investigation into Owen Patterson, and I think it’s right that we reflected on that.”

Owen Paterson avoided an immediate suspension after his Tory colleagues voted to reject the recommended punishment. Credit: PA

Mr Zahawi said it was “absolutely not true” that Boris Johnson aimed to launch a “pre-emptive strike” on Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone ahead of a potential investigation into the initial financing of the decoration of his Downing Street flat.

The allegation had been made by Mr Johnson's former top aide Dominic Cummings.

What happens next?

The prime minister now faces the prospect of a by-election in North Shropshire which will be dominated by allegations of sleaze following Mr Paterson’s resignation.

Labour has demanded an investigation into comments by the Business Secretary relating to the future of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, whose probe into Mr Paterson triggered the chaos seen this week in Westminster.

The issue will not go away, with MPs set to hold an emergency debate on Monday on the consequences of this week’s events in the Commons.

Former Cabinet minister Mr Paterson quit as an MP rather than face the prospect of being suspended from Parliament for 30 sitting days for an alleged breach of lobbying rules.

The farcical series of events have led to some Tories pointing the finger of blame at Chief Whip Mark Spencer, although Downing Street insisted Mr Johnson had confidence in him and the “excellent job” he was doing.

Former chief whip Mark Harper who was one of 13 Tories to rebel to vote against the plans on Wednesday, said the affair was “one of the most unedifying episodes” he has seen during his 16 years in Parliament and appeared to blame Mr Johnson.

“My colleagues should not have been instructed, from the very top, to vote for this,” he said.

Mr Johnson said he was “very sad” that Mr Paterson was standing down after a “distinguished career”.