‘Abolish it’ Andrew Neil’s brutal assessment of House of Lords as Tory ‘sleaze’ row erupts

Owen Paterson resigns as MP

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It comes as the Conservative Party has been accused of systematically offering seats in the Lords to rich donors who pay more than £3million to the party. Meanwhile, there has also been widespread speculation that Owen Paterson, who quit as MP for North Shropshire on Thursday following a government U-turn on his suspension from Parliament, could receive a peerage.

Government sources ruled this out on Sunday night, indicating to the Guardian that No10 has “no intention” of offering Mr Paterson a peerage “at all”.

Tweeting this evening, Mr Neil said: “Can we not just abolish the Lords? Not reform it. Abolish it.”

He added: “Why should anyone in 21st century Britain be called Lord?

“If the heredities want to keep it as a title among themselves, fine. For the rest of us, why not plain Mr or Ms?”

Mr Paterson was suspended over “egregious” breaches of lobbying rules.

On Wednesday, Mr Paterson’s colleagues proposed an amendment to delay a decision on the suspension and form a new committee.

They initially had the backing of the Prime Minister, but Downing Street reversed its decision after public backlash.

The North Shropshire MP is a paid consultant for Randox – a clinical diagnostics company that does Covid-19 testing and pays him £8,333 a month for 16 hours work – and Lynn’s Country Foods, a meat processor and distributor, which pays him £2,000 for four hours of work every other month.

This gives him a combined income of £112,000 from the two companies, on top of his parliamentary salary.

Mr Paterson has publicly denied wrongdoing, and on Thursday announced his resignation as an MP.

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Labour leader Keir Starmer said in a letter to Lord Bew, chairman of the House of Lords Appointments Commission, that making Mr Paterson a Lord would “undermine the confidence in the probity of Parliament”.

On Saturday, former prime minister Sir John Major said a peerage for Mr Paterson would be “rather extraordinary”, describing Boris Johnson’s Government as “shameful”.

An investigation by The Sunday Times and Open Democracy revealed today (Sunday) that in the past two decades, all 16 of the Tory’s main treasurers — apart from the most recent, who stood down two months ago having donated £3.8 million — have been offered a seat in the Lords.

Lord Farmer, another Tory treasurer, said it had become “a tradition” for Conservative Prime Ministers to hand out a peerage to the holder of the party’s top fundraising role.

Anneliese Dodds, the Labour Party chairwoman, said last night: “The stench of sleaze emanating from Boris Johnson’s Government grows by the day.”

Concern about the “cash for access” culture also originates from within the Conservative Party.

Six former Tory ministers expressed deep unease about the practice to the Sunday Times.

A Conservative spokesman said: “We do not believe that successful businesspeople and philanthropists who contribute to political causes and parties should be disqualified from sitting in the legislature.”

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