Anthony Mangnall is Member of Parliament for Totnes.
Being a Member of Parliament is a huge honour. Six hundred and fifty of us have the privilege of being able to represent our respective constituencies in Westminster.
For all the pleasure of being elected it is also worth noting that it comes with huge sacrifices, scrutiny and pressure.
In the two years since I have been elected, I have found colleagues to be decent, hardworking individuals with a desire to see the very best for the country and their constituents. That duty of care and dedication to public service is often mocked and sometimes overlooked, but it is ever present.
Being in such a position of power and responsibility means that we are held to the highest of standards. We all know it and we should all expect it. After all you don’t come into politics and expect not to be in the public eye.
However, if we are expected to adhere to the highest of standards then should we not be entitled to a more robust and equal system of representation when it comes to parliamentary standards?
The recent House of Commons Committee on Standards report on Owen Paterson is unique case in point. As an MP, it is important to question the process and systems in place that lead to judgements that can effectively end careers.
For a Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to offer a judgement of guilty before an investigation has run it course seems remarkably outdated. A judgement made before witnesses and the accused have even been interviewed does not demonstrate justice but a biased procedure that leaves every Member of Parliament without the free and fair judicial process that is available to every other citizen of the United Kingdom.
Not only this, but I can find no examples of private businesses or charitable organisations that would be able to run an investigation into an employee in the same way as the one that has been conducted into Paterson. The reason for which is that legal proceedings would undoubtedly be conducted against any organisation that behaved in such a manner.
Parliamentary privilege may protect us from a litany of legal challenges, but it must not prevent an accused Member from being able to defend themselves against accusations. Owen has stated his desire not to hide behind Parliamentary privilege but to have his day in court. Surely Parliament should not be afraid its own judicial system?
I accept that parliamentary proceedings can be complicated, that the rules and regulations are lengthy and often make turgid reading.
But every MP, just as every citizen does, has the right to a free and fair trial. Failure to have a system or standard of equivalence to the rest of the country means that it is surely time to reconsider the current Commissioner role.
Rather than rely on an outside figure, hired to do the job, surely it is time to consider the huge resources of those in the House of Lords with legal backgrounds. Three peers could be appointed to preside over concerns of standards. Their prior knowledge and legal understanding could bring parity with the outside world and how the judicial system actually operates as well as conducting a fair workplace investigation.
Added to which, an accused Member should have the right of response and challenge.
I don’t know Paterson all that well. But I do believe that all MPs of every colour have the right to be under a system that is fair and equitable to that of the outside world.