As Conservative MP Owen Paterson prepares to challenge the charges brought against him for allegedly breaching lobbying rules, Alexander Stafford MP argues that the way in which the investigation into Mr Paterson has been led has not allowed him the chance to prove his innocence.

After a two year-long investigation, my colleague and friend Owen Paterson has been declared to have breached Parliamentary Standards rules over paid advocacy and other breaches by the Standards Committee which, if approved by Parliament, could lead to a by-election in North Shropshire. Owen is rigorously defending his innocence against this investigation. He is not hiding away nor trying to dodge any scrutiny. Instead, he is highlighting how his case proves that the standards process in the Commons does not comply with natural justice, by lacking an independent appeals process, and is calling for the scrapping of privilege so that he can defend himself in court and challenge the ruling. He wants to prove his innocence under a fair investigation.

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Owen tells us that the 17 key witnesses who supported him were ignored, and that the decision was predetermined before any evidence was heard, including before he was even spoken to. This doesn't seem just. What he did was to raise issues with ministers and officials that almost certainly saved lives. On top of this the effect on his personal life has been horrific, with the investigation being a major contributory factor in the loss of his wife of 40 years.

The system as it currently stands clearly does not work. No private organisation would implement or even consider a workplace investigation process without an independent right to appeal. Consider the outrage if a company tried to censure an employee for raising legitimate concerns about consumer health or started a process to fire a whistle-blower talking to the Food Standards Authority. The Commissioner has admitted that there was no immediate financial benefit to the companies that Owen has clearly declared in his register of interests, yet has determined that there might be a "long-term" benefit. This matter needs fresh independent eyes to investigate. We need a system where there is a process by which a panel of judges, drawn from the Lords, can investigate an appeal – ideally, those Lords would have experience in employment law, making them supremely qualified in their judgement of whether an MP has breached the rules. The importance of drawing the judges from the Lords is so that they would have real experience of how Parliament works and the vital role of Parliamentarians.

I believe that Owen Paterson is an honest, decent man and a highly principled MP. He deserves a right to a fair independent appeals process. He has said that if he became aware that public health was at risk or there was a chance of serious harm he would not hesitate to act again in the same way. This surely is a mark of a man who is willing to put the health of the public over and above his career ? a sentiment that the public and politics as a whole should be encouraging.

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