Lawyers for Owen Paterson have admitted the irony that the former MP is taking the UK government to court in the European Court of Human Rights, despite previously calling on Britain to ‘break free’ “entirely from the yard.
Representatives for Paterson, a prominent Eurosceptic Tory who resigned last year amid a lobbying scandal, released a statement on Monday insisting he had no choice but to appeal to a tribunal whose authority he had previously questioned.
Solicitors for the Devonshires lawyers said in their statement: ‘The irony that Mr Paterson, a vocal opponent of EU institutions, should seek help from the ECHR, is not lost. But he has no other choice, as the government has yet to deliver on its promise to bring human rights law back to Britain, hence the demand in Strasbourg.
Paterson quit in November 2021, two years after the Guardian first revealed he had lobbied on behalf of two companies by which he had also been paid to work as a consultant. A parliamentary inquiry last year found he had repeatedly lobbied ministers on behalf of healthcare company Randox, which paid him £100,000 a year.
The Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards found that he misused resources, engaged in paid lobbying, failed to make proper disclosures and failed to demonstrate the integrity required of a public servant.
Boris Johnson, who was Prime Minister at the time, initially tried to protect Paterson by seeking to change the rules governing parliamentary inquiries. But he backed down amid public outcry, and Paterson resigned soon after. The scandal has since been considered the first in a series of controversies that culminated in Johnson’s resignation in July.
In the statement released on Monday, Paterson’s lawyers insisted their client was innocent of the charges brought by the standards commissioner. “Mr. Paterson did not engage in lobbying nor did he use his position as an MP to obtain benefits for any company.”
The Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists recently issued a ruling that Paterson did not breach disclosure rules because he fell below the threshold required to pay VAT and was therefore not required to report his lobbying activity.
Paterson’s lawyers complained that the standards commissioner failed to contact 17 witnesses Paterson said would support his position, and said he had no choice but to take his case to Strasbourg being given that the commissioner is protected by parliamentary privilege.