Furious MPs heckled a Tory Cabinet minister as he stood in for Boris Johnson at the Commons emergency debate on sleaze.
As Wendy Chamberlain, Chief Whip for the Liberal Democrats asked the Commons why the Prime Minister always travels as domestic issues arise, MPs chanted, “Run, Boris, Run!”
Mr Barclay stood in for the PM at today’s emergency debate.
He appeared to receive some support from Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg who was outed by the opposition for hiding, and not having the guts to speak to the House as he did last week when defending Owen Paterson.
The Tory MP apologised on behalf of his party in his opening speech. Mr Barclay told the Commons: “I’d like, first and foremost, to express my regret and that of my ministerial colleagues over the mistake made last week.
“We recognise there are concerns across the House over the standards system and also the process by which possible breaches of the code of conduct are investigated.”
Boris Johnson refused to apologise for the way he dealt with the Owen Paterson row and the Commons sleaze affair last week.
Instead Downing Street said the PM was unable to get back to Westminster in time following a long-planned visit to an NHS hospital trust in Northumberland.
The No10 Spokesman insisted if Mr Johnson got a train back he would not have made it in time.
He was accused of “running scared” after deciding to stay away from the emergency Commons debate on the rules for MPs following the row over Owen Paterson, until last week the MP for North Shropshire.
Instead the Cabinet Office minister Stephen Barclay will open the debate for the Government amid continuing anger among some Tory MPs over the way the issue has been handled by ministers.
Speaking to broadcasters on a visit to a hospital in Hexham, he said: “What we’ve got to make sure is that we take all this very, very seriously and that we get it right.
“There’s a debate today, unfortunately I can’t be there because I had a long-standing engagement up here.”
Lib Dem chief whip Wendy Chamberlain who secured the debate said: “It is hard to be proud to be a MP when as a body we are all tarnished with the Government’s brush.
“When, in the eyes of the public, we are tainted by allegations of sleaze. The Government’s actions last Wednesday have rightly been condemned across the board.
“What gives this Government a right to think that it can change the rules when the decision doesn’t suit them? That it can ignore judgments if they are not in its favour and that it can whip its own MPs to achieve the outcome it wanted, in violation of the conventions of this House.”
This debate comes days after Owen Paterson quit as an MP just before he could be ordered to serve a 30-day suspension for breaking lobbying rules.
Mr Paterson was paid a whopping £112,000 a year on top of his £82,000 a year MPs salary to lobby ministers and officials on behalf of two private companies.
Ahead of the debate, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, making a statement ahead of the emergency debate, said any changes to the standards system must be done with cross-party support.
Former Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood said Mr Johnson risks ending up as “just another former occupant of Number 10 if Parliament’s reputation is damaged.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey was campaigning in Owen Paterson’s former seat on Sunday.
At a rally in Whitchurch, Sir Ed said: “Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are pumping sewage into our rivers and sleaze into our politics.
“People in North Shropshire, including many lifelong Conservative voters, are sick of having their concerns ignored and being taken for granted.”
The Tories held the seat with a majority of almost 23,000 in 2019, with Labour second and the Lib Dems third.