This memorandum reports on the inquiry that I began on my own initiative on 30 October 2019, following a media report that alleged Mr Paterson had lobbied government officials and Ministers on behalf of two companies which retained him as a consultant: Randox Laboratories Ltd (Randox) and Lynn’s Country Foods (Lynn’s).
I investigated whether Mr Paterson had breached the House’s rules on paid advocacy, and its rules on the use of parliamentary resources and on the declaration of interests. These are set out in paragraphs 11, 13 and 15 of the 2015 Code of Conduct for Members. Because I found serious breaches of these rules, I also had to consider whether his actions would cause significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House, which would be against paragraph 16 of the 2015 Code.
The House of Commons allows Members to undertake outside paid work and recognises the advantages this brings to scrutiny and debate. However, the rules do not allow Members to initiate an approach to Ministers or public officials which seeks to confer, or would have the effect of conferring, a financial or material benefit on a company from which they or a family member receive, have received or expect to receive payment.
Mr Paterson approached senior public officials in the Food Standards Agency (FSA) about the contamination of milk with antibiotic residues, about the mislabelling of a ham product containing nitrites, and about a product used by Lynn’s to cure bacon. He approached the Secretary of State for International Development and the Minister for International Development at the Department for International Development (DfID) about laboratory calibration in developing countries. Mr Paterson has claimed that on each occasion he was bringing evidence of a serious wrong, and that the rules forbidding paid advocacy therefore did not apply.
In my view there was only one occasion on which Mr Paterson was entitled to rely on the ‘whistle-blowing’ exemption which allowed him to bring evidence of a serious wrong to Ministers or officials. This was his initial meeting with the FSA and his client Randox about the contamination of milk with illegal antibiotics. The exemption allowed him to approach the FSA with evidence of this serious wrong, provided that any benefit to the organisation paying him (in this case, Randox) was incidental. I found that Mr Paterson’s later approaches to the FSA about milk did not meet the conditions for this exemption and were therefore in breach of the rules on paid advocacy.
I also found that Mr Paterson’s approaches to the FSA on behalf of Lynn’s about the mislabelling of a global food producer’s ham product containing nitrites and about a product used by Lynn’s to cure bacon; and the Minister of State (DfID) about laboratory calibration in developing countries did not meet the conditions for this exemption and were therefore in breach of the rules on paid advocacy.
Mr Paterson has provided me with a substantial body of scientific material about each of the public health concerns he has said he was addressing. I do not dispute the seriousness of these. However, my inquiry has focussed on Mr Paterson’s conduct.
I found that Mr Paterson had used resources provided by Parliament to support his work for Randox and for Lynn’s. I found that he had held some 25 business meetings with his clients on the parliamentary estate. Some of these meetings involved lobbying, and others were monthly meetings. These 25 meetings were a sustained and at times regular misuse of parliamentary resources. Mr Paterson also used parliamentary stationery bearing the crowned portcullis for two letters which he sent on behalf of his paying clients, for which he has apologised.
The House of Commons rules require a Member to declare their interests, such as outside employment, on any occasion when others might reasonably consider those interests to influence them. I considered whether Mr Paterson had declared his interests when he was required to do so and found that he had omitted to do so in several communications with the FSA.
Mr Paterson’s breaches of the lobbying were serious and numerous. They create the impression that companies with money at their disposal can pay Members of Parliament to lobby for their benefit. They were such as to cause significant damage to the reputation of the House and of other Members. I therefore find that Mr Paterson has also breached paragraph 16 of the 2015 Code.
Mr Paterson is an experienced Member and former Minister and has not shown the integrity and selflessness expected of him. Mr Paterson’s breaches are too serious for the rectification procedure to be appropriate. Therefore, I must refer this memorandum to the Committee on Standards.
1.On 30 September 2019 an on-line article was published by The Guardian in which it was alleged that Mr Paterson had “participated in lobbying campaigns for two firms to promote their products”. The article alleged that Mr Paterson had had “several meetings with officials and another with a Minister” and had written “asking them to take steps which would benefit” Lynn’s and Randox. He was, at the relevant time, paid for consultancy work by both firms.
2.Mr Paterson is an experienced Member. He has represented his constituency of North Shropshire since 1997. From May 2010 to September 2012 he served as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and from September 2012 to July 2014 as Secretary of State for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs.
3.The evidence quoted by the Guardian included documents from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the then Department for International Development (DfID), which the Guardian had obtained in response to requests under Freedom of Information legislation. These concerned meetings Mr Paterson had had with officials and ministers. This material informed my decision to begin an inquiry and is reproduced in the evidence pack.
4.My inquiry focused on the following allegations concerning Mr Paterson’s actions in the years 2016, 2017 and 2018:
That Mr Paterson had acted in breach of paragraph 11 of the 2015 Code of Conduct by initiating approaches to Ministers and other public officials which would have the effect of conferring a financial or material benefit on his clients.
That Mr Paterson had acted in breach of paragraph 13 of the 2015 Code of Conduct by omitting to make necessary declarations of interest.
That Mr Paterson had misused House-provided resources when communicating with the FSA and DfID, and that this was a breach of paragraph 15 of the 2015 Code of Conduct for Members.
The allegations are sufficiently serious that I have considered whether Mr Paterson has acted in breach of paragraph 16 of the 2015 Code of Conduct for Members.
5.Mr Paterson had registered that he was a consultant for both Randox and Lynn’s. The relevant parts of his entry in the Register of Members’ interests in November 2019 were as follows:
From 1 August 2015 until further notice, Consultant to Randox Laboratories Ltd, a clinical diagnostics company, of 55 Diamond Road, Crumlin BT29 4QY. I consulted the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments about this role. From 20 April 2017, I expect to receive £8,333 a month for a monthly commitment of 16 hours. (Registered 07 October 2015; updated 26 April 2017)
From 14 December 2016, consultant to Lynn’s Country Foods Ltd, a processor and distributor of sausages in the United Kingdom, of Down Business Park, 46 Belfast Road, Downpatrick BT30 9UP. Until further notice I expect to receive £2,000 for 4 hrs every other month (24 hrs a year) to a total of £12,000 per annum. First payment received on 25 January 2017. (Registered 27 January 2017; updated 22 February 2017).
6.Mr Paterson’s consultancy with Randox began on 1 August 2015, he received his first payment on 9 September 2015, and he registered it on 7 October 2015. On 20 April 2017 Mr Paterson’s pay was increased from £4,166 to £8,333 a month and his hours from 8 to 16 hours a month. He registered these changes on 26 April 2017.
7.Mr Paterson has stated that he did not have written contracts with Randox or Lynn’s and that the increase in his fees from Randox in April 2017 was dealt with orally. He said he had no letters or emails relating to this. I have expressed my surprise to Mr Paterson that he does not hold contracts for these consultancies. I would have expected Mr Paterson to have a written contract for these roles, which generated an income in excess of his parliamentary salary. It also has meant that it is not clear to me what duties were expected of Mr Paterson after the initial phase of his work for Randox, or in his work for Lynn’s.
8.Mr Paterson stated that he had never been advised to obtain a written contract and queried why the Registrar had not asked whether he had a written contract, given that the consultancies had been in the Register since 2015. However, since May 2015 the Registrar has not been required to keep copies of Members’ written contracts with the companies who retain them, or to check that these exist.
9.Mr Paterson provided a statement from a Senior Manager at Randox responsible for Government Affairs. He stated that Mr Paterson was appointed, “on a consultancy basis to fulfil an ambassador and advisory role at Randox”. He elaborated that Mr Paterson “has no responsibility for, or visibility of, sales or contracts. He is not, unless by exception, an interface with UK Governmental departments and agencies, as Randox engages with such bodies entirely independently from Mr Paterson.”
10.Mr Paterson stated his role at Randox remained advisory, and the approaches subject to investigation were two exceptional matters. This was supported by the Senior Manager at Randox.
11.Mr Paterson supplied a letter from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACoBA), the body which advises former Ministers and others on employment opportunities in the two years after they leave office. This letter appears to refer to a role description which Mr Paterson had provided when seeking their authorisation to begin work for the company. In this he said that he would be advising on “long term strategy” and that engagement with government would not be part of his role.
12.Mr Paterson told me that ACoBA had been content with his proposed appointment with Randox, provided he did not draw on privileged government information, and that he did not become personally involved in lobbying the government on their behalf for two years from his last day in ministerial office. (His last day in ministerial office, as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, had been 15 July 2014.) Mr Paterson told me he had always abided by these conditions. I do not dispute this. My inquiry, however, focussed on whether Mr Paterson has breached the Code of Conduct for Members.
13.This allegation relates to Mr Paterson’s contact with the FSA about the contamination of milk with antibiotic residues, the mislabelling of a ham product containing nitrites, and a product used by Lynn’s to cure bacon; and his contact with DfID about laboratory calibration in developing countries. I shall deal with each matter separately.
14.Paragraph 11 of the Rules of Conduct prohibits paid advocacy:
11. No Member shall act as a paid advocate in any proceeding of the House.
15.Chapter 3 of the Guide to the Rules amplifies this. Paragraph 4 of that chapter explains the purpose of the rules.
4. The rules on lobbying are intended to avoid the perception that outside individuals may reward Members, through payment or in other ways in the expectation that their actions in the House will benefit that outside individual or organisation, even if they do not fall within the strict definition of paid advocacy. They prevent a Member initiating proceedings or approaches to Ministers or other public officials which would confer a financial or material benefit on such a person or organisation. These rules are intended to provide the right balance between enabling Members to bring to bear their experience outside the House on matters of public policy while avoiding any suggestion that the parliamentary or policy agenda can be set by an outside individual or organisation making payments to Members.
16.Paragraph 8 of chapter 3 says:
8. The rules place the following restrictions on Members:
a) When initiating proceedings or approaches to Ministers, other Members or public officials. Subject to paragraph 10 below, Members must not engage in lobbying by initiating a proceeding or approach which seeks to confer, or would have the effect of conferring, any financial or material benefit on an identifiable person from whom or an identifiable organisation from which they, or a family member, have received, are receiving, or expect to receive outside reward or consideration, or on a registrable client of such a person or organisation;
b) When participating in proceedings or approaches to Ministers, other Members or public officials. Members may lobby by participating in such proceedings or approaches which would confer a financial or material benefit on the identifiable person from whom or identifiable organisation from which they, or a family member, have received, are receiving or expect to receive outside reward or consideration (or on a registrable client of such a person or organisation) provided that they have not initiated those proceedings or approaches and that their approach or participation does not seek to confer benefit exclusively on that person or organisation (or on their client) and provided that that person or organisation (or their client) has not initiated the event.
17.The 2015 rules restricting MPs who wish to initiate approaches to government were introduced following a review by one of my predecessors. In proposing these rules, he commented:
Any Member who seeks to [initiate proceedings or approaches to Ministers, other Members or public officials] should in my judgement be seen to act only in the public interest. There should be no suspicion or suggestion that a private interest—of an employer or anyone else—might be involved. The Member should initiate no action, therefore, which could reasonably be thought by others to confer any financial or material benefit on an individual or organisation from which he or she has received, is receiving or expects to receive reward or consideration.
18.Paragraph 9 of chapter 3 of the Guide sets out an exception to these rules.
9. Exceptionally, a Member may approach the responsible Minister or public official with evidence of a serious wrong or substantial injustice even if the resolution of any such wrong or injustice would have the incidental effect of conferring a financial or material benefit on an identifiable person from whom or an identifiable organisation from which the Member, or a member of his or her family, has received, is receiving or expects to receive, outside reward or remuneration (or on a registrable client of that person or organisation).
19.The Standards and Privileges Committee explained this exception as follows:
We have inserted a “whistle-blowing” provision to make clear that in exceptional cases, where there is some serious wrong or substantial injustice a Member may approach the responsible Minister or public official even if doing so might incidentally benefit a paying client.
20.When deciding whether Mr Paterson has observed these rules on paid advocacy, I considered the following questions:
a)Did Mr Paterson initiate these approaches? (This would determine whether the approaches fell under paragraph 8(a) or 8(b) of the rules)
b)Was it an approach which sought to confer, or would have the effect of conferring, any financial or material benefit on either Randox or Lynn’s?
c)If the answer to the first two questions was yes, was Mr Paterson acting under the exception in paragraph 9 of chapter 3 of the Guide to the Rules? In other words, was he approaching the responsible Minister or public official with evidence of a serious wrong or substantial injustice, where the resolution of that wrong or injustice would confer an incidental benefit on either Randox or Lynn’s?
21.When establishing whether Mr Paterson’s actions are covered by paragraph 9, I have considered the following issues:
a)Whether Mr Paterson’s behaviour indicated that his purpose in approaching DfID and the FSA was to provide evidence of a serious wrong or substantial injustice;
b)Whether Mr Paterson limited his actions to providing evidence of a serious wrong or substantial injustice; and
c)Whether Mr Paterson’s actions would make any benefit to Randox or Lynn’s other than incidental, as required by the exception in paragraph 9.
22.This exemption was inserted as a “whistle-blowing provision”, and is only to be used “exceptionally”, which suggests an expectation that the action must be very uncommon, where alternative actions would not address the issue effectively and or in time, rather than to address a general concern.
23.Mr Paterson contacted the FSA and met with FSA representatives and Randox on 15 November 2016, 15 November 2017, and 18 December 2018. During this time, Mr Paterson also corresponded with the FSA Chair and officials. I will consider whether, in these meetings or in correspondence, Mr Paterson has breached the rule on paid advocacy.
24.Mr Paterson has asserted that, as a former Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and a Member for a rural constituency where dairy farming is a major industry, he realised the seriousness of Randox’s findings. He said that he therefore approached the FSA with evidence of a serious wrong as allowed by paragraph 9 of chapter 3 of the Guide; and that this approach neither sought to confer, nor had the effect of conferring, a benefit to Randox.
1 August Mr Paterson begins work as a consultant for Randox.
July National Milk Laboratories (NML) acquire demonstration Randox testing instruments and start to purchase Infiniplex kits.
w/c 1 Nov Mr Paterson becomes aware of Randox milk testing results.
w/c 7 Nov Mr Paterson approaches FSA about milk testing.
15 Nov Randox and Mr Paterson meet about milk testing at 14.00. Randox, FSA and Mr Paterson meet at 15.00.
16 Nov Mr Paterson sends a follow up email to FSA about milk testing; FSA send a holding reply to him.
30 Nov FSA reply substantively, saying contamination of milk was at a low level but agreeing further testing required. FSA say Randox technology is not accredited.
20 April Randox increases Mr Paterson’s salary from £4,166 to £8,333 a month and his hours from 8 to 16 hours a month.
15 Nov Mr Paterson meets FSA about milk testing and sends a follow up email.
17 Jan Mr Paterson emails FSA.
18 Dec Mr Paterson meets FSA on the parliamentary estate to discuss milk testing.
July Meetings for the Milk Quality Forum commenced.
25.Mr Paterson stated that he was made aware of concerns about the level of antibiotics in milk samples analysed by Randox in November 2016. (These samples were from supermarket milk in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.) He said that during the week commencing 7 November 2016 he called the (then) Deputy Chair at the FSA and explained what Randox had discovered. He stated that an urgent meeting was then convened with the Chair and officials of the FSA (including the FSA Chair) and Randox on 15 November 2016, which he attended.
26.Mr Paterson accepted that he initiated contact with the FSA.
27.Mr Paterson provided a statement from the (then) Deputy Chair of the FSA, who stated that he was first contacted by Mr Paterson in respect of the issue of contaminants in milk in early November 2016. He stated that Mr Paterson requested a meeting to share with the FSA, as the regulator for food standards, test results from point-of-sale milk which caused him serious concern.
28.The Deputy Chair stated that at the meeting, they discussed Randox’s findings and the concerns in respect of the antibiotic florfenicol which Randox had found in milk. He said that Randox were present at this meeting only to explain their tests and findings. He recalled being aware that Randox’s tests were new and not accredited, and that therefore further accredited tests by the agency or other government agencies would be required to verify the findings before taking action.
29.The Deputy Chair stated that he understood it had been suggested that this meeting may have been a forum to promote Randox. He stated that any such suggestion was quite wrong, that this meeting was set up solely to disclose to the FSA, as the appropriate body, the test results. He stated that the Chair and he would not have attended a commercial meeting and would play no part in any procurement process. Further, he advised that the FSA’s Chief Scientific Advisor attended as this was a meeting solely about the test results. The Deputy Chair stated that he could not recall any discussion about purchasing testing equipment.
30.The Deputy Chair stated that as a regulatory body, it is of utmost importance that the FSA is apprised of intelligence such as this. He stated it did not matter who was presenting the intelligence, whether this was a consumer or an MP, and providing there was good evidence this would be inputted into the system in the same way to ensure the appropriate action was taken. He said the FSA should always be the first point of contact, and that once the FSA had this information, the appropriate organisation could be informed, whether this was the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) or otherwise. The FSA were responsible for dairy farm inspections and so the FSA was the correct body to raise concerns relating to possible contaminants in dairy products. The Deputy Chair stated he welcomed Mr Paterson bringing this information to their attention.
Many thanks for reacting so quickly to my call to [the FSA Deputy Chair] last week and agreeing to meet key technicians from Randox Laboratories. It was great to meet you all again. We rapidly agreed that what Randox’s superior technology has uncovered is shocking and potentially incredibly damaging to the UK Dairy Industry. It is not good that illegal products have not been detected by the current testing regime in retail milk. It is also bad that the current systems miss certain illegal products which Randox can detect.
You agreed to begin an enhanced programme of testing for the illegal substances which Randox have discovered. We agreed Randox should test the same samples in parallel so results can be compared. You were interested in using the Randox technology within the FSA. You offered to help with ISO 7025 accreditation at a suitable laboratory. Once established the application of the technology could be discussed not just within the FSA but across the whole dairy industry. This could lead to a much rapider and more thorough testing regime of huge value to U.K. Dairy promotion at home and abroad in the future. You suggested discussing the revelations on antibiotics with [named redacted] the Chief Vet.
… Looking further ahead, [one of your FSA colleagues] mentioned the issue of mycotoxins in maize and I have long been worried about the potentially explosive danger of campylobacter in chickens. It would be good if he could liaise with Randox and discuss further how their latest technologies might help on grain and meat.
32.Mr Paterson told me that his email on 16 November 2016 was to confirm discussions already held, next steps already agreed, and the test result disclosed at the meeting. He stated that this was not a promotional email, but a summary of matters already agreed.
33.Mr Paterson stated that he mentioned mycotoxins because the Chief Scientific Advisor to the FSA had raised the issue during the meeting. Mr Paterson said that he (Mr Paterson) had responded to this by suggesting that the advisor liaise with Randox. Mr Paterson stated he had longstanding concerns about campylobacter and that, “ … the rules are absolutely clear that this was not lobbying”.
34.Mr Paterson said that his statements as to the potential for Randox technology were in line with the breadth and seriousness of the issues, and the FSA’s suggestions of wider points of dissemination. He stated that his reference to Randox’s superior technology might read like a promotion of a specific product, but that it was actually a factual statement as Randox tests milk to a higher standard. He said that, as far as he knew, there were no other companies that had this sophisticated testing technology and capability.
35.The Chair of the FSA wrote to Mr Paterson on 30 November 2016 to set out the follow up actions which had been taken. She told him the FSA had conducted an initial risk assessment for the protection of public health. She had been advised that the antibiotic contamination was low and that there was no risk to food safety. However, she accepted that florfenicol was not regularly tested for and that FSA had limited information about it. The Chair told Mr Paterson the FSA intended to conduct a targeted on-farm raw milk surveillance programme with the VMD.
36.Following the email from the Chair of the FSA, there was a gap of one year before any further contact between Mr Paterson and the FSA on this matter.
37.Mr Paterson told me that Randox continued to test and to detect the presence of regulated and unauthorised substances in milk. He stated that he raised the matter again with FSA in November 2017, a year after he had first alerted them, and met the Chair on 15 November 2017.
38.Mr Paterson explained that there was a one-year gap between his approaches to the FSA, to allow the FSA to investigate and address the matter, having notified him of credible plans to do so. Mr Paterson stated the further approaches were because of inadequate action taken by the FSA.
39.Mr Paterson sent a follow up email to the FSA Chair on 15 November 2017 after the meeting, in which he stated that:
We discussed illegal substances which are still being detected in retail milk by Randox’s equipment at levels which are too low for other current testing technologies to detect. Several large commercial dairies are extending their use of Randox testing. It would be great if you could call a meeting with the VMD to ensure that Government agencies do not fall behind.
40.Mr Paterson met with Randox and the FSA Chair on 18 December 2018. An internal FSA briefing note for the meeting on 18 December 2018 set out the recent history concerning Randox and milk testing, and discussed FSA’s strategy for the meeting, which Mr Paterson was to attend:
The FSA have previously provided Randox with advice on how to go about accreditation but have made it clear that we are unable to provide opinion on the suitability of the new methodology for enforcement purposes.
Please see attached previous briefing note by [Section 40] produced on 24 October for [name redacted]
41.After the meeting on 18 December 2018, the FSA Chair sent an internal email which included the following:
Randox - I explained yet again to Mr Paterson that we do not have policy responsibility for milk testing equipment and monitoring et cetera. I again advised he needed to contact Defra and Daera, (since a lot of the issue he is talking about appears to be in Ireland) to take this forward. I could cast no light on why Defra had decided not to pursue it. He is going to get in touch with [names redacted], the Permanent Secretary at Daera and the relevant chief vets.
42.Mr Paterson said that, following the meetings with the FSA about contaminated milk, he set up the Milk Quality Forum. He said this was because he remained very concerned about the substances in milk and dairy, and the lack of action by the FSA. Mr Paterson stated he engaged with the Chief Vet and National Milk Laboratories (NML), and that as a result milk safety has improved. Mr Paterson provided a note from a meeting in July 2019 with the Chief Vet, VMD, the FSA and the NML. He also provided statements from the Director of NML and a veterinary advisor from the NML, who confirmed they had been present at meetings of the Milk Quality Forum, which began in July 2019.
43.Mr Paterson provided a statement from the Chief Vet, who confirmed they were first contacted by Mr Paterson in May 2019.
44.Mr Paterson told me that the FSA was the correct body to approach, as it is charged with the protection of food safety, has direct management of milk testing and line manages testing by the NML. He said that, whilst the FSA line manage milk testing, they do not have any contracts for testing. He argued that therefore there was no prospect of his approach to the FSA providing any benefit to Randox. Mr Paterson stated that the testing body was the NML, which already had Randox technology.
45.The Senior Manager at Randox stated that as far as he was aware, the UK Government was not involved in the technical provision of broad milk testing services, and there was therefore no active government contract to be secured. He stated that volume testing is undertaken by dairies and the NML, with whom Randox were already engaged, and privately owned companies who conduct independent, private procurement processes.
46.Mr Paterson provided a statement from the NML Director. He explained, “The FSA is the body that is ultimately responsible for the statutory obligation to test milk to certain standards, they have management over the statutory surveillance of milk. Work that NML is doing for primary processors within the industry supplements the statutory surveillance programmes which are carried out through government laboratories and run by the FSA.”
47.The NML director described the NML’s role as identifying the farms responsible for contamination where contaminants are identified in a consignment, by testing milk samples taken from farms associated with the consignment. He confirmed that they had used Randox technology from around 2016. He said that in July 2016 they had acquired demonstration Randox testing instruments and started to purchase Randox’s Infiniplex kits. By November 2016 (the time of Mr Paterson’s initial approach to the FSA) they were buying these kits on a monthly basis, although Randox were not and are not their primary kit provider.
48.Randox’s Annual Report for 2017 stated:
We also actively seek new markets. By its nature Biochip Array Technology is ideally suited, by way of example, to the Food Safety and Forensic Toxicology markets. In the Food Safety area we can detect multiple drug residues, administered to animals but that may remain within the associated foodstuffs prepared for human consumption; this can be harmful and has provided access to related import/ export markets and large-scale producers …
49.In 2016–17, the VMD’s main responsibilities, as listed in its Annual Report, were:
1. To lead on the UK government policy for the regulation of veterinary medicines and antimicrobial resistance in animals
6. Surveillance for residues of veterinary medicines and illegal substances in animals and animal products.
50.When I asked Mr Paterson whether he had considered raising his concerns in any other ways with Government and regulatory authorities, he told me that “FSA and DfID were approached as they are the relevant bodies. [ … .] The FSA is the correct body to which issues of milk testing and nitrites in bacon/mislabelling should be referred. The FSA acted on these matters and did not suggest that another body should be notified.”
51.Mr Paterson stated that the serious harm he was addressing when approaching the FSA about milk contamination was that “prohibited and dangerous antibiotic residues were in 12.5% of randomly sampled milk. Whereas UK consumers are told that 99.9% of milk samples are contaminant free”. He explained that the milk sampled by Randox contained florfenicol, a totally prohibited antibiotic residue, that he had been advised it was a “dangerous substance” and very harmful to infants. He stated that, since his intervention, florfenicol had been included in the national surveillance plan for UK milk, improving product safety.
52.Mr Paterson told me he considered it polite, sensible, and good form to write follow up letters after meetings, to summarise and hopefully keep up the urgency. He said this has always been his custom, to confirm the outcome of meetings and relevant next steps in writing following a meeting.
53.I will examine each contact to establish whether it constituted an approach by either Randox or Mr Paterson, and, if so, if the approach was initiated by Mr Paterson. In such cases the approaches initiated by Mr Paterson would be subject to the restrictions set out in paragraph 8(a) of chapter 3 of the Guide.
54.The meetings on 15 November 2016 and 15 November 2017 were arranged at Mr Paterson’s request. Mr Paterson then sent follow up emails on his own initiative. Therefore, I find that these meetings and follow up emails were approaches initiated by Mr Paterson. I will consider whether in these approaches Mr Paterson’s actions sought to confer, or would have the effect of conferring, a material or financial benefit on Randox.
55.The meeting on 18 December 2018 held in Mr Paterson’s parliamentary office, was to discuss both Randox and Lynn’s products. Mr Paterson described this meeting to me as a “wrap up” meeting with the Chair. I have no evidence as to who organised this meeting and cannot make a finding as to whether this was an approach initiated by Mr Paterson or Randox. I will therefore not consider whether Mr Paterson’s actions in this meeting breached the rules on paid advocacy.
56.I shall, therefore, examine the following approaches initiated by Mr Paterson:
To consider whether Mr Paterson’s actions sought to confer, or would have the effect of conferring, a material or financial benefit on Randox.
57.I do not have any minutes or notes from the meeting of 15 November 2016. The evidence I have to consider is the statements of Mr Paterson and the Deputy Chair of the FSA, the correspondence sent by Mr Paterson and the Chair to follow up the meeting, and the briefing note from 2018 which references the 2016 meeting.
58.The briefing note refers to Randox’s identification of low levels of antibiotics in milk, but then goes on to state that Randox wanted FSA to adopt this new technology for routine testing. Mr Paterson’s email of 16 November 2016 also references the FSA being interested in using Randox technology and help with accreditation. Mr Paterson has said his follow up letters or emails are to summarise and confirm the outcome in writing following a meeting. It follows that the email can be considered as reflective of what was discussed in the meeting. This would suggest Mr Paterson’s actions sought to confer, or would have the effect of conferring a benefit for Randox.
59.However, this is disputed by Mr Paterson, and at odds with the former Deputy Chair’s statement, which supports Mr Paterson’s view. The former Chair stated that this meeting was solely to disclose the test results to the FSA.
60.From this evidence I consider, on the balance of probabilities, that this meeting focussed on alerting the FSA to the test results. I therefore do not find that, during this meeting, Mr Paterson’s actions sought to confer, or would have the effect of conferring, a material or financial benefit to Randox.
61.Mr Paterson’s email of 16 November 2016 starts by focussing on the test results. He then goes on say that the FSA was interested in using Randox’s technologies and had offered help with accreditation. Accreditation would provide a financial and material benefit for Randox as the commercial supplier of that technology. The commercial opportunities for accredited testing technology would be greater than for unaccredited technology.
62.Mr Paterson in his email then suggests opportunities for Randox in relation to the testing of other food products, grain and meat, and suggests the FSA could liaise with Randox on this. This would provide a further financial and material benefit for Randox as the commercial supplier of that technology. In short, Mr Paterson’s email was seeking various sorts of commercial benefit for Randox. Mr Paterson has stated this inclusion was a result of the FSA’s Chief Scientific officer having raised the issue during the meeting. This does not alter my finding as this email is a separate approach initiated by Mr Paterson.
63.The email sent by Mr Paterson on 15 November 2017 appears consistent with his assertion that he called for the meeting about his continuing concerns about the substances in milk. However, in the same email he then appears to request the intervention of the FSA Chair to ensure that public sector agencies do not “fall behind” the private sector in the use of Randox technology.
64.I am satisfied that Mr Paterson was seeking to confer a financial and material benefit on Randox as the commercial supplier of that technology. If government agencies started to use Randox technology for testing further food substances, or organisations already using Randox technology increased their dependence on it, this could help with expanding Randox’s markets and customer base.
65.I accept that the commercial uptake of Randox technology in the public sector would not have immediately followed from a single meeting with the VMD, and that new purchases of the technology would likely have needed to follow the usual public sector procurement rules.
66.It is not necessary for these benefits to have materialised for me to make a finding of paid advocacy. The paid advocacy rule is clear that seeking to confer a financial or material benefit amounts to a breach of the rule. The financial or material benefit does not need to be achieved for a breach to have occurred.
67.The briefing note provided by FSA officials to the FSA Chair prior to the meeting in 2018 is useful in assessing whether the earlier approaches sought to confer a benefit on Randox. The briefing makes reference to Randox wanting the FSA to adopt Randox technology for routine testing of milk and of Randox wishing to work in parallel with the FSA on a review of antibiotic residues in milk. This joint working would have been of benefit to Randox, contrary to Mr Paterson’s assertion that the FSA were not in a position to confer a benefit on Randox.
68.As with the meeting in 2016, I do not have any notes or minutes from the meeting held on 15 November 2017. However, Mr Paterson has said that his follow up letters or emails are to summarise and confirm the outcome in writing following a meeting. It follows that the email can be considered as reflective of what was discussed in the meeting. I am therefore satisfied that the meeting of 15 November 2017 and subsequent email sent by Mr Paterson sought to confer a benefit on Randox.
69.I do not accept Mr Paterson’s argument that there was no prospect of his approaches to the FSA providing any benefit to Randox. The evidence reflects that Mr Paterson sought the following benefits through the approaches initiated by him:
70.I am therefore satisfied that the following approaches were in breach of paragraph 8(a) of the Guide to the Rules:
71.I will now consider whether Mr Paterson’s actions fell under the whistle-blowing exemption which would allow him to approach the FSA with evidence of a serious wrong, provided that any benefit to Randox was incidental.
72.In his evidence, Mr Paterson has set out in detail the risks associated with antimicrobial residues, both to individuals and to the dairy industry. Mr Paterson has also provided significant evidence that Randox had identified unauthorised antibiotic residues in milk.
73.Mr Paterson told me he became aware of the testing results in the first week of November 2016, he contacted FSA in the week beginning 7 November 2016, and the meeting took place on 15 November 2016. It is clear that in November 2016 he regarded the matter as urgent and the FSA also responded with urgency. This is consistent with Mr Paterson’s assertion that he was providing evidence of a serious wrong. This interpretation is supported by the evidence of the meeting provided by the Deputy Chair of the FSA, in which he stated that the meeting was solely to disclose the test results to the FSA. I therefore accept that Mr Paterson approached the FSA in November 2016 in order to provide evidence of a serious wrong.
74.Mr Paterson’s follow up email to the FSA Chair on 16 November 2016 initially supports his assertion that he was seeking to address a serious wrong, particularly his reference to what has been discovered as “shocking and potentially incredibly damaging to the UK Dairy Industry.”
75.However, as I have set out above, Mr Paterson then goes on to seek various benefits for Randox. I accept that, since Randox had discovered the substance in the milk samples, it follows that their diagnostic equipment was referred to. However, the rules did not permit Mr Paterson, having raised a serious wrong, to use the opening to draw attention to the virtues of Randox products. In those circumstances any benefit to Randox would not be ‘incidental’ but an intended outcome of the approach.
76.If, as Mr Paterson says he “remained concerned” after November 2016, I would also have expected him to approach others, and quickly. While the FSA was the natural place to report a food safety issue, VMD was the obvious place to approach about veterinary medicines and antimicrobial residues. This is reflected by the responsibilities listed in their Annual Report from 2016–2017 including leading on the UK government policy for the regulation of veterinary medicines and antimicrobial resistance in animals, and surveillance for residues of veterinary medicines and illegal substances in animal products.
77.Mr Paterson has stated that the FSA was the correct body to approach, which is supported by the statement of the Deputy Chair of the FSA. Mr Paterson has also said that the FSA acted on these matters and did not suggest that another body should be notified.
78.Mr Paterson is mistaken about this. In his email to the FSA Chair of 16 November 2016, Mr Paterson refers to the Chair’s suggestion he discuss the revelations on antibiotics with the Chief Vet. The Chair of the FSA herself contacted VMD about his concerns in November 2016. Mr Paterson stated that he engaged with the Chief Vet and the NML, setting up the Milk Quality Forum. This is supported by statements from the Director of NML and a veterinary advisor from the NML, and the Chief Vet. However, these statements all reflect that this did not occur until 2019.
79.I am of the view that Mr Paterson’s actions in initially raising this issue with the FSA in November 2016 are consistent with seeking to address a serious wrong. In making this decision I have considered the manner in which Mr Paterson approached the FSA, his other actions with regard to the Milk Quality Forum, and the evidence provided by the Deputy Chair of the FSA about the initial meeting with the FSA.
80.However, paragraph 9 does not provide Members with a blanket exception or override the rule on paid advocacy. Mr Paterson did not confine himself to raising the serious wrong which Randox had discovered. I have seen his follow up emails to the meetings of 15 November 2016 and 15 November 2017, and the FSA’s internal briefing for the meeting of 18 December 2018. In these emails and at the meeting of November 2017, he advocated for a range of Randox products, and requested or suggested actions from the FSA. These actions would have benefited Randox in the medium to longer term by providing access to possible new markets or enabling better penetration of existing markets; reflecting that any benefit to Randox would not be ‘incidental’ but an intended outcome of the approach. Therefore, Mr Paterson’s approaches after the meeting on 15 November 2016 do not meet the conditions for the whistle-blowing exemption in paragraph 9.
81.Mr Paterson breached the rule on paid advocacy during his approaches to the FSA on behalf of Randox on the following occasions:
82.Mr Paterson contacted the FSA and met FSA representatives and Lynn’s on 15 November 2017, and on 15 January, 24 May, 9 July and 18 December 2018. During this time Mr Paterson also corresponded with the Chair of the FSA.
83.I considered whether, in these meetings or in correspondence, Mr Paterson breached the rule on paid advocacy.
84.Mr Paterson asserted that he was approaching the FSA with a serious wrong as allowed by paragraph 9 of chapter 3 of the Guide, that a global food producer was acting in breach of EU law by mislabelling a product. He has also said that this approach neither sought to confer, nor had the effect of conferring a benefit on Lynn’s.
14 Dec Mr Paterson begins work as a consultant for Lynn’s.
Feb Lynn’s write to the FSA NI regarding the global food producer.
11 Aug The Grocer publishes an article about the global food producer’s use of nitrates.
Nov Mr Paterson contacts the Chair of the FSA in London regarding the global food producer’s product.
15 Nov Mr Paterson meets the FSA about the global food producer’s product, and later emails the FSA Chair.
24 Nov FSA writes to Lynn’s saying that Lynn’s proposals amounted to using additives, and to say that the other company had agreed to relabelling.
Jan Lynn’s ‘Naked’ Products launches in the UK.
8 Jan Mr Paterson calls and emails the FSA Chair to arrange a meeting with the FSA and Lynn’s.
15 Jan Mr Paterson meets FSA with Lynn’s and others about reclassification of ingredients.
16 Jan Mr Paterson emails the FSA Chair regarding the meeting the previous day.
24 May Mr Paterson meets with the FSA, Lynn’s and legal advisers about Lynn’s Country Food’s products.
9 Jul Mr Paterson meets with the FSA Chair and a Lynn’s representative about Lynn’s products.
18 Dec Meeting between the FSA, Mr Paterson and Lynn’s regarding Lynn’s product.
85.Mr Paterson said that Lynn’s approached the FSA in February 2017 “well before I was asked to assist” about the ham produced by another company (the global food producer) which was being sold in the UK as an “all natural” product, when it contained nitrates from vegetable extracts. Mr Paterson said that Lynn’s was “frustrated by the lack of response of the FSA in the UK to a clear and serious breach of EU law”.
86.Mr Paterson stated that Lynn’s had initiated the approach to the FSA (NI), and when Lynn’s had not received a satisfactory response, he followed up with the FSA Chair.
87.Mr Paterson provided a statement from the Technical Director of Lynn’s, who said that Lynn’s were extremely concerned that the global producer’s product was marketed as ‘all natural’ and without nitrates when this was not the case, and when the curing agent they were using was banned under EU regulations. The Technical Director stated they raised this with the FSA (NI) who told them that they could not deal with the matter directly as the manufacturing company was based in a different jurisdiction.
88.The Technical Director confirmed that Lynn’s approached Mr Paterson in 2017, “ … as a consultant to Lynn’s with prior experience of the workings of governmental organisations and EU regulation, for advice on how this should be dealt with”, after Lynn’s approaches to the FSA (NI) had been unsuccessful. He said that Lynn’s was ‘exasperated’ as the product was on the market, actively breaching EU legislation and misleading consumers. The Technical Director said that Mr Paterson contacted the Chair of the FSA, and he set up a meeting between Lynn’s and the FSA, which took place on 15 November 2017.
89.The Technical Director continued that:
Lynn’s were extremely concerned that this product should be allowed to be marketed as “all natural” and without nitrates… consumers actively trying to seek out a nitrate free product would also be misled into buying this product.
90.Mr Paterson provided a statement from the Communications Director of Lynn’s, who stated Lynn’s brought the matter to Mr Paterson’s attention, and Mr Paterson then raised it with the FSA at a senior level, after Lynn’s had been dissatisfied with the response they had received from the FSA (NI).
91.Mr Paterson provided a statement from a legal adviser to Lynn’s, who commented that the global producer’s product:
… would create an obvious confusion for any consumers of processed meats who were actively seeking products produced without nitrates, such as the [Lynn’s] bacon and ham products. In other words, consumers could easily make the mistake in thinking that [the other product] was nitrate free …
92.I have not seen a formal note of the meeting on 15 November 2017, but I have seen correspondence sent to follow up the meeting. An FSA official’s internal email, sent on 16 November 2017, included the following:
FSA confirmed once more that use of “natural” extracts / flavourings etc to perform additive functions in products is only permitted where they are authorised food additives and properly labelled as such …
OP and the company were pleased with the progress made by FSA NI via their interactions with FSAI [Section 31]. The need for continued good relations with FSAI was fully appreciated and acknowledged by OP and the company …
During the meeting the company described their own “innovative” bacon product(s) which are being prepared for launch in the new year and apparently use [Section 43] and a mixture of flavourings which are already on the market to achieve natural antioxidant and preservative functions, without involving nitrates. I challenged the company to explain how this was different to what their competitor is currently doing in terms of the additives legislation … .
93.Mr Paterson’s email to the FSA Chair of 15 November 2017 stated:
Many thanks for your time today. It was good to meet you again with [names]. It was very encouraging to learn of your work with the Irish FSA agreeing that [the global food producer’s product] uses a material that is not approved and that they must change it. We agreed that you would write to [Lynn’s] confirming this and that this letter could be used to warn the multiples and other suppliers not to use this material. Many thanks for your help on this.
94.An internal email, sent from an FSA employee on 24 January 2018 but referring to Mr Paterson’s email of 15 November 2017 recorded:
As you know, I attended the first meeting on 15 November 2017 with [FSA Chair and FSA official]. As [FSA Chair] says, we did not agree what OP is suggesting at that meeting. The points in his e-mail are more akin to what [Lynn’s] originally hoped to get out of the meeting.
95.The Technical Director of Lynn’s stated that this meeting was entirely focused on the other company’s mislabelled product and that during this meeting “the FSA advised that they were working with the Irish FSA to investigate the matter”. The Technical Director said that, following the meeting, the FSA agreed that this use of nitrates was not permitted and that the global food producer had agreed to reformulate and relabel the products in question.
96.The FSA wrote to Lynn’s on 24 November 2017, an extract of which stated:
You raised a particular case with the Food Standards Agency about a Republic of Ireland company and their use of celery extract for additive purposes. As explained at your meeting with my colleagues, the Food Safety Authority in Ireland (FSAI) has confirmed to us that they looked into this matter afresh, together with officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, taking into account more recent developments within the European Commission and in other EU Member States. FSAI also discussed the matter with the food business operator and the company has agreed to reformulate and relabel the products in question. FSAI is currently in discussions around the timing of these actions but expects matters to be resolved in the short term and will be monitoring the situation closely.
As advised at the meeting, you will wish to assure yourself of the status of your new products under food law, with particular regard to the provisions of the food additives legislation discussed above, to ensure their compliance prior to placing them on the market … I recommend that you contact your local District Council’s Environmental Health department for further information as the enforcement authority for your premises.
97.In an internal FSA email on 24 November 2017, it was recorded:
I personally felt that as the meeting revealed that (a) the issue was essentially all about the NI company trying to clear the market for the launch of its own product(s) and… A significant part of the meeting was devoted to the NI company trying portray a “David versus Goliath” battle and to promote their product(s) as healthier/safer than others (the [global food producer] in particular) because the pomegranate/[Section 43] flavouring blend they use does not (apparently) contain nitrates/nitrites, whilst sidestepping the key issue of explaining how this blend is not a food additive by definition.
98.On 8 January 2018 Mr Paterson emailed the FSA Chair, writing as follows:
Many thanks for your time on the phone just now. We agreed that we need to meet urgently with you and your technical team to discuss the FSA’s interpretation of ‘Nitrite Free’ following [the Professor of Food Safety’s] letter to me dated 3.1.18 … in response to [a FSA official’s] letter to [Lynn’s’ CEO] dated 24 November 17. This is even more urgent now that you have received an RASFF notification from Ireland and France about the Prosur product. This seems extraordinary as products using these Prosur natural ingredients have been approved and sold in France for over a year. Having invested £14m in a new plant and having taken on 100 new employees, [Lynn’s CEO] is extremely concerned about what looks to be a concerted attack on his Nitrite Free product (which could reduce the 6500 annual deaths from colorectal cancer) by producers of processed meats which contain nitrites but who are deliberately and misleadingly selling them to the public as nitrite free … My office will contact to set this up as rapidly as possible.
99.Mr Paterson, Lynn’s and the FSA duly met on 15 January 2018 in his office on the parliamentary estate. In the FSA’s note of the meeting it was recorded that the reports of action against Prosur’s product were discussed first. It was recorded:
[The CEO of Lynn’s] … commented that he was looking to the FSA to protect him and his investment [in Lynn’s] and that it was misleading to the public for [Section 31] to say that a product was natural or nitrite free when it is not.
100.Discussion then turned to the global company’s product:
[An FSA official] assured [the CEO] he would ask FSA NI to seek clarification from FSAI on what action had been taken on reformulation/re-labelling–[Mr Paterson] commented that FSA NI has already written to [Section 31] suggesting they reformulate their product.
Action 4: [an official] to contact FSA NI regarding the [Section 31] bacon product in question.
101.Mr Paterson provided a statement from a Professor of Food Safety, who described the meeting of 15 January 2018 as “ … an extremely difficult meeting”, as in his opinion the FSA did not understand or appreciate the significance of the link between nitrites and colorectal cancer and that the global producer’s product contained nitrites which was a banned additive. The Professor of Food Safety stated that the FSA did not accept that Lynn’s used an entirely different curing technology that did not contain nitrite. He stated that the FSA focused on the labelling of Lynn’s’ bacon, and not the removal of the global producer’s product, which he and Mr Paterson wished to discuss. The Professor stated that the meeting did not relate to the sale of Lynn’s products.
102.The Technical Director of Lynn’s described the meeting as ‘frustrating’, stating that the FSA had not proactively taken action regarding the global food producer’s product but had decided incorrectly that Lynn’s were using additives to cure meats. He stated that in January 2018, when the FSA alleged Prosur’s product contained nitrite, “the FSA then changed their approach from co-operating to resolve the issues with [the global food producer] to initiating their own attack on Lynn’s product”. The Technical Director stated, “Mr Paterson’s primary concern was that of consumer confidence in bacon products and that they were as safe as could be.”
103.Mr Paterson sent an email to the FSA Chair (who had not been present at the meeting) on 17 January 2018. In this email, Mr Paterson set out the points covered during the meeting. In brief, he said:
104.Mr Paterson went on to state that during the meeting of 15 November 2017 it had been agreed that:
105.An internal FSA email on 22 January 2018 recorded:
OP read from his ‘notes’ of the 15th Nov meeting but I don’t recall his playback being as definitive as his mail below suggests. At the most recent meeting [Lynn’s] asked what FSA would do to ‘protect me’ but when I played this back in terms of competition the move to ‘nitrate free’ became more altruistic in terms of public health.
106.The Chair responded on 10 February 2018 to correct this list of outcomes. She said that the FSA did not - and could not - require that the Republic of Ireland company reformulate its products. She stated that the FSAI had confirmed they had looked into the matter. The Chair went on to say, “as there is no evidence to suggest that the products are ‘unsafe’ under food law, we are not in a position to remove the products from, or prevent them being placed on the UK market on that basis”. The Chair’s email then focussed on the need for the FSA to work with Lynn’s to resolve some technical questions regarding the Prosur product.
107.An internal FSA email sent on 24 January 2018 stated that “The reason [Lynn’s’] own compliance came under scrutiny is because they chose to use the remainder of the meeting to “sell” their product.”
108.The Chair’s email of 10 February 2018 appears to be the last mention of the global company’s product. After that the discussions focussed on Lynn’s Country Food’s product. According to the Technical Director of Lynn’s, these discussions continued until a meeting was proposed for 24 May 2018. He stated that Mr Paterson had no real involvement in this discussion, but just facilitated it.
109.Mr Paterson, Lynn’s and Prosur met the FSA on 24 May 2018. An FSA note from the meeting stated, “The FSA explained the aim of the meeting was to better understand the nature of … . Prosur [‘s product], and how it was used in [Lynn’s] products”.
110.Mr Paterson met the FSA Chair on 9 July 2018. To arrange this meeting, Mr Paterson’s parliamentary office and FSA exchanged a series of emails between 29 June 2018 and 2 July 2018. The final email from Mr Paterson’s office was as follows:
… Thank you for confirming 6pm next Monday. This will be in Owen’s office at 1 Parliament Street.
111.FSA officials prepared a briefing note for that meeting, between Mr Paterson, a representative of Lynn’s, and the FSA. (It had been planned to include more representatives of Lynn’s and also FSA officials.) It set out a series of lines for the FSA Chair to take and provided a background note.
The FSA has been unable to determine whether the use of the Prosur natural flavouring in [Lynn’s’] nitrite-free meat products falls within the regulatory framework. This is due to Prosur and [Lynn’s] not providing sufficient information (despite numerous requests) to establish whether it is a food additive or not …
The FSA met with [Lynn’s] and Prosur on three occasions, on 15 November 2017, 15 January 2018 and 24 May 2018. Mr Paterson also attended the meetings.
Eight months on from the initial meeting, despite numerous exchanges between the FSA and [Lynn’s] and Prosur (and their lawyers), no progress has been made. The FSA has devoted considerable resources to explaining the EU requirements concerning food additives and flavourings.
… There is a perceived premium associated with ‘clean label’ products. Products that do not contain additives are perceived as ‘healthier’ or ‘more natural’.
112.On 11 July 2018 Mr Paterson wrote to the Chair of the FSA, as follows:
Many thanks for meeting me on Monday … We had a very constructive discussion and your proposal to write to all the other European agencies who have approved products using the Prosur process seems a good way forward. I would be grateful if you could send me a copy of the email that you are sending out. In the meantime, you confirmed that you had not so far referred the [Lynn’s] bacon to the European agency.
113.Another meeting took place on 18 December 2018. The FSA’s briefing note for the Chair included the following:
We welcome [Lynn’s’] assurances that it will amend labels to declare the presence of ascorbic acid and to remove the ‘no E number’ claims. We hope to see these changes reflected on their own and third-party websites, as well as on other marketing information (including packaging) as soon as practicable …
The FSA has been in discussion with the company since November 2017 over the legal status of the extracts they use in the production of their bacon. They currently state these are natural flavourings. Following a Commission statement in September 2018 on the use of plant extracts in foods, we were informed [Lynn’s] intend to change the label of their bacon to indicate the presence of food additives. We would like to see these changes made without delay …
[Lynn’s] have been very vocal about the impacts the delays in obtaining export certificates are having on their company and UK trade in general, however, they have not provided adequate reasons for the delays in changing the labelling of their bacon …
114.After this meeting, the FSA Chair circulated her “readout” of the meeting. It included the following paragraph relating to [Lynn’s]:
[Lynn’s] - he has not heard back from [Lynn’s] in recent weeks. I reiterated that, I set out in my letter, there was no evidence received by the FSA that the Prosur product has been approved by other EU member states. Also, that I was pleased to see the company did now intend to follow the advice provided by the local authority, e.g. on labelling. If that happens, then there would be no further action on this issue. I confirmed that in our approaches to EU partners, we had concentrated on approvals of the product not the [Lynn’s] bacon by name.
115.Mr Paterson said that, after the FSA was approached about the global food producer’s mislabelled product, the FSA subsequently raised issues about Lynn’s nitrite-free bacon. He said he was involved in these discussions because of his prior involvement with the FSA, and his response falls outside the lobbying rules. He said he had “helped explain to the FSA that natural flavourings used in nitrite-free bacon and ham had been used in France for over a year and were gaining worldwide traction”.
116.Mr Paterson stated that Lynn’s did not approach the FSA in order to promote their own products, and that these were only discussed because the FSA’s response to being appraised of the problems with the other product was to “turn their fire on Lynn’s and say, essentially, your product is no different to [the global food producer’s product]”. Mr Paterson stated Lynn’s had nothing to be gained by discussing their product with the FSA.
117.Mr Paterson said that after he had raised his concerns about labelling of the global food producer’s product, contacts with the FSA “sought to resolve the issue of whether or not natural food additives can be used as preservatives in bacon and ham and so avoiding nitrites”. He said, “This was a technical issue and not a financial one conferring any benefit”. A director at Lynn’s stated that their primary objective was to bring the serious harm of mislabelling a carcinogenic product to the FSA in the hope that the EU regulation would be enforced.
118.The legal adviser to Lynn’s described the meeting as ‘incredibly frustrating’ as the FSA were unwilling to discuss whether traditional bacon and ham products posed health risks, and instead their “sole focus” was concerned with the labelling of the Lynn’s product.
119.Mr Paterson said that in pursuing the issue with the FSA, he was supporting the report of a serious wrong, namely that the global food producer was acting in breach of EU law, misleading the public and concealing that its product contained carcinogenic nitrites.
120.Mr Paterson stated that nitrites have been directly linked to colorectal cancer, which kills about 16,000 people in the UK each year. Mr Paterson said that it was in the interests of the nation as a whole and of his constituents that nitrite-free bacon and ham should be widely available. Mr Paterson said that it would have been a serious wrong not to seek to reduce the incidence of bowel cancer by encouraging the further adoption of nitritefree alternatives and ensuring that, where companies incorrectly labelled a product and particularly where that concealed a carcinogenic additive, it was drawn to the attention of the relevant authorities. He said it was also in the interests of national health that food products are correctly labelled especially where additives may cause significant health issues.
121.The Professor of Food Safety stated that, in his opinion, the method of curing meats without nitrates marketed by Prosur and adopted by Lynn’s was “a much safer means of preserving meat compared with nitrates”. The Professor stated that he became aware through Lynn’s CEO that a company based in Ireland was marketing its product as a naturally cured product in 2017. He referred to an advert used to promote their product, which stated it was naturally cured, ‘chemical free and safe’. The Professor stated, “I did not believe this to be the case. It was cured with nitrite obtained from celery and in my opinion this practice breached EU law.”
122.The Professor stated that he had “several meetings with Mr Paterson, who was a consultant to Lynn’s Country Foods about the issues of nitrites in processed meats. Mr Paterson’s concern was entirely focused on protecting the UK public, as a dangerous and mislabelled food was being widely sold in UK and this contained an additive banned by the EU”. The Professor enclosed a paper on the health implications of nitrites used in processed meats, and specifically the link between nitrites and the development of colorectal cancer.
123.I asked Mr Paterson what evidence he brought to the FSA. Mr Paterson’s response to this was to reiterate that Lynn’s discovered that the global producer’s product contained a banned curing agent, and that he approached the FSA. Mr Paterson stated that Lynn’s was hoping to protect customers from eating a concealed carcinogen, and he was acting to protect his constituents and the general public.
124.When Mr Paterson met the FSA on 15 November 2017, the authorities in Northern Ireland and FSA were already aware of the global food producer’s product. Lynn’s had contacted the FSA about the additives used in this ham in February 2017; and the trade press had published an article about this issue in August 2017. Mr Paterson has argued that the fact the FSA were already aware of this wrong was immaterial, since this remained an unresolved serious wrong.
125.The Registrar told me that it seemed likely to her that:
[Mr Paterson] approached the FSA on behalf of [Lynn’s] because the company wanted to stop another from selling products which they believed to be mislabelled, as well as to promote [Lynn’s]’ s own products. These things would have resulted in a business advantage and in the end a financial benefit to the companies.
126.I will examine each contact to establish whether it constituted an approach by either Lynn’s or Mr Paterson, and, if so, if the approach was initiated by Mr Paterson. In such cases the approaches initiated by Mr Paterson would be subject to the restrictions set out in paragraph 8(a) of chapter 3 of the Guide.
127.The meeting on 15 November 2017 was arranged at Mr Paterson’s request. Mr Paterson then sent a follow up email on his own initiative. Therefore, I find that this meeting and Mr Paterson’s follow up email were approaches initiated by Mr Paterson. Mr Paterson’s position is that the approach to the FSA was initiated by Lynn’s because of their concerns about the global producer’s product. I accept that Lynn’s had approached the FSA NI in February 2017, but I view the contact by Mr Paterson in November 2017 as a fresh approach for two reasons. Firstly, nine months had passed since the original approach by Lynn’s and secondly Mr Paterson approached the FSA in London and not (as Lynn’s had) the FSA NI.
128.Mr Paterson’s email reflects that he contacted the FSA urgently on 8 January 2018 following the letter sent to Lynn’s in November 2017, a letter Mr Paterson had received from the Professor of Food Safety, and after receiving reports of enforcement action via the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). I have seen no evidence that the FSA requested a meeting with Lynn’s at this point. Mr Paterson spoke with the FSA Chair, apparently on Lynn’s’ behalf, and arranged the meeting that took place on 15 January 2018. This phone call, email, subsequent meeting, and Mr Paterson’s email of 17 January 2018 are therefore approaches initiated by Mr Paterson.
129.The note of the meeting of 24 May 2018 suggests it was called by the FSA, and therefore was not an approach by Mr Paterson or Lynn’s.
130.The correspondence between Mr Paterson’s office and the FSA indicates that the meeting on 9 July 2018 was initiated by Mr Paterson. Mr Paterson then sent a follow up email on his own initiative. Therefore, I find that this meeting and follow up email were approaches initiated by Mr Paterson.
131.The meeting on 18 December 2018 was to discuss both Randox and Lynn’s products at Mr Paterson’s offices. Mr Paterson described this meeting to me as a “wrap up” meeting with the Chair. I have no evidence as to who organised this meeting and cannot make a finding as to whether this was an approach initiated by Mr Paterson or Lynn’s. I will therefore not consider whether Mr Paterson’s actions in this meeting breached the rules on paid advocacy.
132.I shall therefore examine the following approaches initiated by Mr Paterson:
To consider whether Mr Paterson’s actions sought to confer, or would have the effect of conferring, a material or financial benefit on Lynn’s.
133.The evidence provided by Mr Paterson and the Technical Director at Lynn’s reflects that in November 2017 Mr Paterson and Lynn’s raised concerns about the global food producer’s product. There is, however, a difference of view about motivations and outcomes.
134.In Mr Paterson’s email to the Chair of the FSA on 15 November 2017, he referred to the global food producer being required to change the material they used, and to a letter from the FSA to Lynn’s which Lynn’s could use to ‘warn’ other suppliers not to use this material. An email from an FSA official, sent in January 2018 but referring to Mr Paterson’s email, stated this was not what had been discussed but rather what Lynn’s hoped to get out the meeting. The action taken by the FSA (including the Chair’s letter of 24 November 2017 which does not reflect Mr Paterson’s email) after this meeting supports this view.
135.The Registrar told me that it seemed to her that Mr Paterson approached the FSA on Lynn’s behalf in order to stop the selling of products and to promote Lynn’s own products. This is supported by:
136.Mr Paterson has argued that this was a technical issue and not a financial one conferring any benefit. I have considered his assertion that his contacts with the FSA simply sought to resolve the issue of whether natural food additives can be used as preservatives in bacon and ham, so avoiding nitrites. This is not consistent with the evidence.
137.Had these approaches been successful, a competitor product would have been removed from the UK market, or relabelled, with consumer choice and sales of “clean label” bacon being directed towards Lynn’s new product. It is not necessary for these benefits to have materialised for me to make a finding of paid advocacy. The paid advocacy rule is clear that seeking to confer a financial or material benefit amounts to a breach of the rule. The financial or material benefit does not need to be achieved for a breach to have occurred.
138.I am therefore satisfied that the meeting of 15 November 2017 and subsequent email sent by Mr Paterson sought to confer a benefit on Lynn’s.
139.Moving to the approaches relating to Lynn’s use of Prosur’s product. Mr Paterson’s email to the FSA of 8 January 2018, reflects that he was seeking to protect Lynn’s investment, referring to a £14m new plant and 100 new employees.
140.The FSA’s note of the meeting on 15 January 2018, and the email sent from an FSA official on 22 January 2018 also refer to Lynn’s CEO looking to the FSA to protect him and his investment. The briefing note of the meeting on 9 July 2018 and Mr Paterson’s follow up email reflect that the purpose of this meeting was to continue the discussions about Lynn’s use of Prosur’s product. At further meetings during 2018 Lynn’s highlighted the impact of reports of an investigation, and of an alert under the RASFF, on their ability to obtain export certificates.
141.Mr Paterson’s follow up email of 11 July 2018 refers to actions the FSA Chair had proposed and requests a copy of the letter the FSA Chair proposed to send to European agencies. I have no meeting minutes or other evidence against which to assess this email. I therefore do not consider this email sought to confer a benefit on Lynn’s.
142.Had Mr Paterson’s approaches been successful, Lynn’s would not have needed to relabel their product and could have continued to describe it as “additive free”, allowing the product to attract the premium referred to by the FSA. Lynn’s would have also avoided any reputational damage or costs arising from the relabelling of the product; the export certificate delays, which had the potential to damage sales, would have been resolved at an early stage; and there would have been an early end of the regulatory action which prompted the meeting of 15 January 2018, reducing the risk of reputational damage from that action.
143.It is not necessary for these benefits to have materialised for me to make a finding of paid advocacy. The paid advocacy rule is clear that seeking to confer a financial or material benefit amounts to a breach of the rule. The financial or material benefit does not need to be achieved for a breach to have occurred.
144.I am satisfied that Mr Paterson’s phone call and email of 8 January 2018; the meeting on 15 January 2018; Mr Paterson’s email of 17 January 2018 and the meeting on 9 July 2018 sought to confer a benefit on Lynn’s.
145.The evidence reflects that Mr Paterson’s approaches to the FSA sought to confer the following benefits on Lynn’s:
146.I am therefore satisfied that the following approaches were in breach of paragraph 8(a) of the Guide to the Rules:
147.I will now consider whether Mr Paterson’s actions fell under the whistle-blowing exemption which would allow him to approach the FSA with evidence of this serious wrong, provided that any benefit to Lynn’s was incidental.
148.The FSA were aware of the global producer’s product prior to the approaches initiated by Mr Paterson, as Lynn’s had contacted them and the trade press had published an article in August 2017. Mr Paterson has argued that the fact the FSA were already aware of this wrong was immaterial, since this remained an unresolved serious wrong. Paragraph 9 makes no explicit mention of approaches about serious wrongs which were previously notified to Ministers and public officials. I think it would be interpreting the rule too narrowly if these were always ruled out. It is significant (although not in itself conclusive) that Mr Paterson did not bring evidence to the FSA in 2017. The rule allows Members to bring evidence to Ministers and officials, not to press for action whenever they feel that the action already taken on a particular issue is insufficient.
149.The FSA’s notes from 16 November 2017 recorded that “OP and the company were pleased with the progress made by FSA NI via their interactions with FSAI”. But I do not think that actions taken by the FSA either before or after the meeting is, in itself, evidence of a serious wrong. It would have been possible to take action on a minor issue.
150.The evidence of those who attended the meeting in November 2017 is not consistent. The Professor of Food Safety’s evidence supports Mr Paterson’s assertion that he was focused on addressing the serious wrong, and that the FSA changed the focus of the meeting to the use of Prosur’s product by Lynn’s foods. The internal FSA emails which followed that meeting, however, do not suggest that the officials present perceived Mr Paterson’s approach as drawing attention to a serious wrong.
151.I do not contest that Mr Paterson was, when he approached the FSA, concerned by the harm caused by nitrites in bacon. However, in November 2017 he was not addressing the issue of nitrites in bacon generally but the mislabelling of a particular ham product. This was sold by a competitor of Lynn’s and could have reduced the market for a new product which Lynn’s would shortly launch. And the reason for his contacting the FSA again in January 2018 lay in reported enforcement action which threatened Lynn’s investment in their new bacon product.
152.I have considered whether, if Mr Paterson’s approaches to the FSA had produced, or would have produced, financial or material benefit for Lynn’s, that the benefit could be said to be incidental. I do not think it could. Mr Paterson’s first meeting with the FSA and Lynn’s on these matters on 15 November 2017 was arranged following Lynn’s request for his help. The first part of that meeting focussed on a rival product from a competitor and the second on Lynn’s’ new bacon product and the substances used in it. It appears from the meeting note that Lynn’s raised the second issue. The second meeting was in response to reports of enforcement action against Prosur’s product, the ingredient used by Lynn’s. In my view, these discussions relating to Lynn’s product could not reasonably be considered part of an effort to address a serious wrong.
153.These approaches were intended to help Lynn’s by removing or reducing competition and removing business obstacles. I do not consider that any benefit to Lynn’s could reasonably be regarded as incidental.
154.Therefore, Mr Paterson’s approaches do not meet the conditions for the whistle-blowing exemption in paragraph 9.
155.Mr Paterson breached the rule on paid advocacy in his approaches to the FSA on behalf of Lynn’s from November 2017 to December 2018, both in relation to the global food producer’s product and in relation to Lynn’s own new product. Those approaches were made on the following occasions:
156.Mr Paterson met the [then] Secretary of State for International Development in the House of Commons on 12 October 2016 and then wrote to her the next day requesting a meeting with Randox representatives. This followed an unsuccessful approach by Randox in July 2016. Mr Paterson met with the [then] Policing Minister on 31 October 2016 and the [then] Minister of State (DfID) and Randox in January 2017. Mr Paterson and the Minister exchanged follow up correspondence after the meeting.
157.I have considered whether, in these meetings or in correspondence, Mr Paterson has breached the rule on paid advocacy.
158.Mr Paterson has asserted that the initial approach to DfID was made by Randox; that he was drawing the attention of Ministers to a serious wrong as allowed by paragraph 9 of chapter 3 of the Guide; and that this approach neither sought to confer, nor had the effect of conferring a benefit to Randox.
1 August Mr Paterson begins work as a consultant for Randox.
28 July The Senior Manager at Randox wrote to the Secretary of State for International Development, requesting a meeting to discuss applications for Randox technology.
12 Oct Mr Paterson met the Secretary of State for International Development and mentioned Randox.
13 Oct Mr Paterson wrote to the Secretary of State for International Development requesting a meeting with her and Randox.
31 Oct Mr Paterson met with the Minister of Policing regarding Blood testing.
12 Jan Mr Paterson and Randox met the Minister of State (DfID).
16 Jan Mr Paterson sent a follow up email.
1 Feb Minister of State (DfID) responded to Mr Paterson’s email.
159.On 28 July 2016 the Senior Manager at Randox wrote to the Secretary of State for International Development. He requested a meeting about DflD Overseas Aid programmes and improving the reliability of laboratory results. The letter stated that Randox was certain that its technology “could deliver dramatically better health outcomes” for the same cost. Randox did not receive a reply.
160.Mr Paterson said that, on 12 October 2016, he met the Secretary of State for International Development by chance in the House of Commons and wrote to her the next day asking for a meeting. He reminded her that he had previously told her that he was a consultant for Randox. He met the Minister of State (DfID) in January 2017 in the company of the Randox Senior manager. Afterwards he and the Minister of State (DfID) exchanged follow up letters.
161.The letter from the Senior Manager at Randox to the Secretary of State for International Development (DfID) on 28 July 2016 began:
I am writing to highlight a valuable opportunity for the DFID Overseas Aid programme, and to request a meeting to discuss the matter further. The issue in question is one of healthcare ‘diagnostics’ and the implications for developing economies, and their healthcare systems, of poor laboratory quality management. This is a significant problem and aligns with the Department’s priority of tackling extreme poverty and helping the world’s most vulnerable.
162.Randox’s letter went on to set out the company’s assessment of its own strengths in the field. For example:
Randox, a UK company, is a world leader with considerable experience in both IQC and EQA laboratory capabilities - our IQC materials are highly stable and accurate and are used globally. Our EQA scheme (RIQAS) is the largest global scheme with over 40,000 participants. Importantly, we fully understand the importance of education and support in these matters, and we provide both educational and on-going technical support to users.
By way of further background, Randox is the largest life sciences company from the UK and has been active in developing blood-science diagnostic capabilities, including quality control systems, for some 34 years. We have over 1300 staff, including 300 research scientists and engineers, and currently export to 145 countries. This includes significant experience in the developing world, including activities in the majority of the 28 countries upon which DFID focus.
[ … .]
With Randox’s considerable expertise in this area - in IQC/EQA development, establishment of schemes at individual sites and up to national level, and in education, global distribution and support - we believe we have much to offer.
We would welcome the opportunity to discuss these matters further with you - both laboratory quality management and, if of interest, the development of diagnostics against new and emerging infectious disease threats. There are real unmet needs here. We believe there is clear potential for DFID, with only a limited resource commitment from the Overseas Aid budget, to make a significant, real and lasting impact on healthcare in developing economies.
163.The Senior Manager stated that he wrote the letter, highlighting that quality control is “a cost-effective bed-rock upon which improved health, for the world’s most vulnerable could be developed”, but did not receive a reply. He stated that he mentioned to Mr Paterson his concern at the failure to support laboratories in developing countries, and the reduction in serious harm that could be achieved through use of UK aid to support laboratory quality control.
164.Mr Paterson later clarified that as soon as the Senior Manager made him aware of his letter and the serious wrong it detailed, he made it his business to talk to the DfID Secretary of State and so purposely looked out for her rather than meeting her by chance. He stated it was clearly not as urgent an issue as milk contamination but was nevertheless a serious wrong and it was important DfID was aware of this wasted resource resulting in poor health outcomes.
165.The Secretary of State for International Development said that she encouraged Members to bring new suppliers to the attention of the Department to diversify and deliver better value for money and better outcomes. She recalled Mr Paterson approaching her to, “draw my attention to harmful medical practices resulting from a lack of calibration of laboratory equipment in medical centres in the developing world”.
166.The Secretary of State for International Development said Mr Paterson told her that he was a paid consultant to Randox, who had written to her regarding technologies for laboratory calibration but had not received a reply. She said she had not seen this letter, and she informed him she would speak to officials to check if a reply had been sent. She said the matter was picked up by the Minister.
167.The Secretary of State for International Development said she did not believe there was impropriety in Mr Paterson’s approach to DfID.
168.Mr Paterson wrote to the Secretary of State for International Development on 13 October 2016, stating:
Following our brief chat last night, I previously mentioned to you that I work with Randox Laboratories in Northern Ireland. They are convinced that their state of the art technologies could deliver dramatically better health outcomes with the same funds which DfID currently grant to health schemes in developing countries.
[Two of my colleagues at Randox] will be in London on Monday 24th October and it would be brilliant if you could find time to meet me with them.
169.Mr Paterson he told me he met the Policing Minister about blood testing on 31 October 2016. He said the meeting was to discuss Home Office Policy on forensic testing, as the Home Office were considering a single supplier arrangement. Mr Paterson stated that the meeting clarified that there was no intention to go to a single supplier. Mr Paterson could not recall who organised or requested this meeting.
170.Mr Paterson told me he met the Minister of State (DfID) on 12 January 2017 with a representative of Randox. The Senior Manager at Randox said that the meeting was also attended by senior officials within DfID and, “noting that Randox are a private company and a provider of services, DfID procurement officials also attended the meeting by video link”. He stated that no one indicated in any way that what was happening was improper, and he was sure that had it been the meeting would have been halted.
171.The Senior Manager stated that flagging an issue to the UK Government and selling something was not the same, and that had the UK Government considered that what was being said was accurate and wished to remedy it, such decisions would be formally recorded and an open and transparent procurement process would follow, with Randox competing with others for any possible contract.
172.Mr Paterson provided in his support an email from the Minister of State (DfID), in which he described the issues around laboratory testing as “a relevant issue for DfID since the department invests hundreds of millions a year of government money in Health programmes in developing countries”. The former Minister stated that it was clear Mr Paterson was a consultant to the company, and that “the arguments made for the equipment by the company were about its technical strengths and advantages for international development”. The Minister stated that, in his view, Mr Paterson was not advocating specifically for this company but approached the meeting with concern for UK tax-funded programs, lab testing, and an interest in improving healthcare.
173.The Minister of State (DfID) stated that officials were present at the meeting, and that they would not have permitted the meeting to continue if it breached the rules of conduct. He said “ … we listened carefully to the description of the problem and the proposed solution”.
174.On 16 January 2017, Mr Paterson sent a letter to the Minister of State (DfID), listing the actions which he said had been agreed at the meeting. This letter, like that of 13 October 2016, was on House of Commons paper bearing the crowned portcullis. With it he enclosed a copy of a press release detailing a joint project between Randox and a small charity in the Cameroon.
175.Mr Paterson sent me a copy of this letter, in which he stated that he was “a consultant to Randox”. He echoed the Senior Manager in describing Randox’s offer as “ not so much a ‘Laboratory Project’ as a proposal that should be viewed as securing the ‘bedrock’ of healthcare - as a reliable blood tests are the core of clinical decision-making.” Mr Paterson told me “that is something any politician would promote. I saw this as addressing a genuine health concern.”
176.Mr Paterson’s letter to the Minister of State (DfID)continued:
… Randox’s request is not to look at their ‘ensuring quality’ proposal as a niche part of some laboratory project, but rather as a capacity building project worthy of active consideration in its own right. This would appear to be an excellent use of UK Aid resources.
177.Mr Paterson then listed what he called “key follow ups” from the meeting as:
That the Department would facilitate contact between Randox and the DFID personnel within the King Salman Relief Fund, for their laboratory projects.
You would discuss and review internally the Randox proposal and how it may complement UK Aid programmes.
The Department would facilitate a Randox presentation to your in country health advisors in London.
Up to date information on DFID Tier 2 providers would be forwarded to Randox.
The Department would work with Public Health England on the matter of laboratory quality, with Randox as required.
178.Mr Paterson told me that he did not dispute he was speaking highly of Randox in his follow up letter to the Minister of State (DfID) dated 16 January 2017, but he did not see how the two could reasonably be separated. He said it would have made no sense to obscure mention of the company that had identified the serious wrong. Mr Paterson stated it had always been his custom to write follow up letters after meetings to summarise and keep up the urgency.
179.The Minister of State (DfID) responded on 1 February as follows.
Thank you for your letter of 16 January, following up on our meeting with [name redacted] to discuss the work of Randox on laboratory quality assurance.
It was very interesting to meet with Randox and hear about their work to improve health systems and services by strengthening the quality of laboratory diagnosis. I was especially interested to learn about the global contribution of a British company as a leader in this field.
My officials are following up on the points you raise in your letter:
The King Salman Relief funding mechanisms are at an early stage of development. DFID’s representative in Riyadh is [details redacted], whom Randox may wish to contact to explore whether there may be suitable funding opportunities.
DFID’s health teams have discussed Randox’s work and where this may complement UK-funded health programmes in developing countries and have also raised Randox with colleagues at the Department of Health and Public Health England. The Fleming Fund, a major UK aid programme that is managed by the Department of Health, aims to improve laboratory capacity and diagnosis as well as data and surveillance of antimicrobial resistance in low and middle-income countries. This programme will include investments in laboratory capacity and quality assurance, as part of a large portfolio of country and regional level grants (to be designed and delivered by a Management Agent, [name redacted]). Randox may wish to discuss potential opportunities as a commercial supplier with the Fleming Fund Programme Director, [details redacted].
As we discussed, DFID support for health does not typically include direct funding for laboratories or associated quality assurance. DFID health advisers in London would be pleased to meet with Randox to explain DFID’s approach to improving health for poor people in developing countries in greater detail; and hear more about Randox’s work. [Randox] can contact the head of our Health Services team, [name redacted], to arrange this.
DFID’s Procurement and Commercial Department (PCD) is currently collating analysis on bidding behaviour of Tier 2 suppliers, which has not yet been finalised. PCD officials would be happy to meet with Randox to explain our supply chains, how we buy, and who we work with. [name redacted] will be happy to arrange a meeting.
Randox may also be interested in the work of Healthcare UK. This is a joint initiative of the Department of Health, NHS England and the Department of International Trade that promotes the British healthcare sector internationally, and drives export opportunities to win more business overseas. Dr [name redacted] is their Deputy Director of Futures, International Development and Investment (email address redacted).
Thank you again for bringing Randox’s work to my attention. I trust that this progress update and further points of contact are helpful.
180.In the email which he provided to Mr Paterson in 2021, the Minister of State (DfID) stated that, “Following on from the meeting civil servants subjected the idea to the standard procedures, to which we would submit any idea or application presented to the department. … In the event, we concluded–regardless of the strengths and weaknesses of this particular product - that DfID did not have a strategic requirement for such a product. We, therefore, took the idea no further. This was only ever an idea.”. He went on to state that had DfID decided there was a requirement for such equipment, they would have gone through an open and transparent public tender process.
181.Mr Paterson told me that he had been seeking to improve health care worldwide. He said that in his view, as a matter of fact, Randox had had no financial benefit, nor had he been in a position to seek to confer a financial benefit on Randox. Mr Paterson said that it was entirely a matter for DfID whether they undertook any testing of Randox diagnostic services or materials. He added that only if testing happened and proved successful could consideration of the services or materials begin. Then numerous factors would have to be considered before there could be any financial benefit.
182.Mr Paterson stated that, whilst Randox was referred by the Minister of State (DfID) to a procurement opportunity, that was not the aim of the approach and highlighted that public procurement rules would have to be followed.
183.Mr Paterson stated that the letter from Randox on 28 July 2016, even if focused on the value of its control systems, was predominantly trained on the serious wrong to which these systems offered some remedy. He also highlighted that Randox’s focus did not mean he was not motivated by the serious wrong. He stated that he did not want his constituents’ taxes wasted on machines that did not do their job due to improper calibration. He said that the Randox product was a good opportunity for DfID.
184.Mr Paterson said that Randox’s evidence of poor or non-existent quality control systems within healthcare laboratories in some developing countries was a serious wrong compelling him to act. He said these failings meant that the associated blood tests could not be relied upon, with a significant associated cost in human lives and wasted healthcare resources in societies of greatest need. He said the UK Government had been investing millions of pounds for years in international development projects and is committed to better global public health, which includes working to combat diseases such as malaria, Ebola and drug resistant infections. This could be helped by implementing effective quality control systems; Randox was one of a number of companies providing quality control systems.
185.I asked Mr Paterson what evidence he provided to DfID. Mr Paterson stated he “provided the evidence that a failure to calibrate laboratory equipment renders health outcomes unreliable, causes human suffering and loss of life and wastes the resources UK taxpayers are providing”, and referred to the earlier letter from Randox.
186.Mr Paterson stated that he raised the issue with the correct Government department so they could take action, that 2017–2019 had been extraordinarily busy and that since October 2019 he had had to deal with this inquiry so had not been able to pursue the matter further.
187.Mr Paterson highlighted that DfID was “seeking new suppliers and new technologies; it positively encouraged companies to come forward”. He stated that Randox’s motivation was to inform DfID of the existence of this technology, which is not exclusive to Randox.
188.I will examine each contact to establish whether it constituted an approach by either Randox or Mr Paterson, and, if so, if the approach was initiated by Mr Paterson. In such cases the approaches initiated by Mr Paterson would be subject to the restrictions set out in paragraph 8(a) of chapter 3 of the Guide.
189.Mr Paterson stated the initial approach to DfID was made by the Senior Manager at Randox, and that he participated thereafter. I accept that Randox approached the Secretary of State for International Development in a letter of 28 July 2016. I do not, however, accept that in following up this approach Mr Paterson was participating in the approach made by Randox and therefore exempt from the House’s advocacy rule. Three months had elapsed since Randox’s approach. I therefore consider Mr Paterson initiated the approach to the Secretary of State for International Development on 12 October 2016.
190.Mr Paterson sent the Secretary of State for International Development a letter the next day on his own initiative. Therefore, I find this letter was an approach initiated by Mr Paterson.
191.Whilst the meeting with the Minister for Policing on 31 October 2016 was regarding blood testing, I have no evidence as to who organised this meeting. Therefore I cannot make a finding as to whether this was an approach initiated by Mr Paterson or Randox. I will therefore not consider whether Mr Paterson’s actions in this meeting breached the rules on paid advocacy.
192.The meeting on 12 January 2017 was arranged at Mr Paterson’s request, Mr Paterson then sent a follow up email on his own initiative. Therefore, I find that this meeting and Mr Paterson’s follow up email were approaches initiated by Mr Paterson.
193.I shall therefore examine the following approaches initiated by Mr Paterson:
To consider whether Mr Paterson’s actions sought to confer, or would have the effect of conferring, a material or financial benefit on Randox.
194.In his letter of 13 October 2016 Mr Paterson referred to Randox being convinced their technology could deliver dramatically better health outcomes with the same funds. In his letter of 16 January 2017 Mr Paterson set out clearly the “follow ups” he wanted to see after the meeting earlier that month. These included DfID facilitating contact between Randox and DfID personnel within a relief fund for laboratory projects; reviewing internally Randox’s proposal, facilitating a Randox presentation to DfID’s incountry health advisors, and providing details of their Tier Two providers.
195.Mr Paterson was over-optimistic and the promises in the Minister’s reply of 1 February 2017 to him were more limited. But Mr Paterson’s letter provides insight into his broad objectives. I am satisfied that this was not a “neutral” meeting solely to discuss poor health outcomes in developing countries, and the general importance of IQC and EQA mechanisms, but designed to benefit Randox.
196.Mr Paterson has told me that Randox received no financial benefit. This does not influence my consideration of whether Mr Paterson engaged in paid advocacy. Paid advocacy is against the rules, whether it is successful or not.
197.Mr Paterson told me that he had not been in a position to seek to confer a financial benefit on Randox. Mr Paterson said it was entirely a matter for DfID whether they undertook any testing of Randox diagnostic services or materials, adding that only if testing happened and proved successful could consideration of the services or materials begin.
198.I agree that Mr Paterson’s approaches would not have resulted in Randox receiving public funds directly. But they brought other benefits. His initial discussion with the Secretary of State for International Development and subsequent email secured a meeting for Randox with DfID which they had not previously been able to obtain. That meeting would have benefited Randox by securing contacts with in-country health advisers and the King Salman Relief Fund, as well as obtaining information about Tier Two providers. This was reiterated in his follow up email. I am satisfied that Mr Paterson’s actions sought to confer, or would have the effect of conferring, a financial and material benefit on Randox.
199.I am therefore satisfied that the following approaches were in breach of paragraph 8(a) of the Guide to the Rules:
200.The former Secretary of State referred to DfID encouraging MPs to bring new suppliers to their attention. This does not mean that the rules on lobbying did not apply.
201.The rules on paid advocacy prevent Members from initiating approaches to Ministers or public officials which seek to confer, or would have the effect of conferring a financial or material benefit on their employers or clients. They are there to prevent outside organisations buying the services of Members to lobby for them - and to guard against the perception that such lobbying has taken place. I am particularly concerned that in this instance when a company who paid Mr Paterson found it hard to arrange a meeting with a Minister, he secured a meeting for them.
202.I will now consider whether Mr Paterson’s actions fell under the whistle-blowing exemption which would allow him to approach the FSA with evidence of this serious wrong, provided that any benefit to Randox was incidental.
203.Randox themselves first approached DfID on 28 July 2016 about blood testing. This was before Mr Paterson became involved. Their letter began by referring to a valuable opportunity for the DfID Overseas Aid programme. Mr Paterson has said the letter from Randox was predominantly trained on the serious wrong to which their systems offered some remedy. I do not agree, their letter does not suggest that they were writing to raise a serious wrong.
204.I accept Mr Paterson’s assertion that Randox’s focus does not mean he was not motivated by the serious wrong. However, Mr Paterson’s own actions also do not suggest that he felt compelled to address a serious wrong. When DfID did not reply to Randox, Mr Paterson made an approach to the Secretary of State for International Development in October 2016, by his account, “by chance”, although he later stated that he was specifically looking out for her to ensure DfID was aware of this wasted resource. When Mr Paterson followed up his chance meeting with by sending an email to the Secretary of State the next day, he made no mention of a serious wrong or substantial injustice. Rather, he said Randox “are convinced that their state of the art technologies could deliver dramatically better health outcomes with the same funds which DfID currently grant to health schemes in developing countries.”
205.Again, when Mr Paterson wrote to the Minister on 16 January 2017, after their meeting, he made no reference to any serious wrong or substantial injustice. In his letter, he argued that Randox’s proposal would complement the UK aid programme and improve value for money for UK aid.
206.If Mr Paterson was addressing the serious wrong of poor or non-existent laboratory controls, the rules permitted him to approach Ministers with evidence of this serious wrong. I asked Mr Paterson what evidence he provided to DfID. Mr Paterson stated he “provided the evidence that a failure to calibrate laboratory equipment renders health outcomes unreliable, causes human suffering and loss of life and wastes the resources UK taxpayers are providing”, and referred to the earlier letter from Randox. This, however, is not evidence, but assertions. In fact, the only material Mr Paterson provided to DfID was a press release relating to a project involving Randox in the Cameroon.
207.Mr Paterson highlighted that DfID was “seeking new suppliers and new technologies; it positively encouraged companies to come forward”. He stated that Randox’s motivation was to inform DfID of the existence of this technology, which is not exclusive to Randox. His correspondence, however, does not mention other products. The Minister of State (DfID) stated that he concluded that DfID did not have the requirement for such a product. This again reflects that the meeting was a ‘pitch’ for a specific Randox product, rather than raising a serious wrong.
208.If he was raising a serious wrong with DfID, I would have expected Mr Paterson to return to it at a later date. But Mr Paterson did not raise this matter with DfID again. Mr Paterson stated that he raised the issue with the correct Government department so they could take action, that 2017–2019 had been extraordinarily busy and that since October 2019 he had had to deal with this inquiry so had not been able to pursue the matter further.
209.If Mr Paterson had raised a serious wrong, the rules did not permit him to use the opening to make approaches which either sought to confer or would have the effect of conferring a benefit on Randox. They would not permit him to promote Randox’s technology as he has done. In those circumstances any benefit to his client would not be ‘incidental’ but an intended outcome of the approach.
210.Therefore, Mr Paterson’s approaches do not meet the conditions for the whistle-blowing exemption in paragraph 9.
211.Mr Paterson breached the rule on paid advocacy in his approaches to DfID on behalf of Randox from October 2016 to January 2017. Those approaches were made on the following occasions:
212.Paragraph 13 of the 2015 Code of Conduct for Members (paragraph 14 of the current Code) states:
… . [Members] shall always be open and frank in drawing attention to any relevant interest in any proceeding of the House or its Committees, and in any communications with Ministers, Members, public officials or public office holders.
213.Chapter 2 of the Guide the Rules expands on the rule in respect of declaration of Members’ interests. Paragraph 4 begins:
Members are required, subject to the paragraphs below, to declare any financial interests which satisfy the test of relevance … .
214.Paragraph 5 states
The test of relevance is whether those interests might reasonably be thought by others to influence his or her actions or words as a Member.
215.Paragraph 7 lists the circumstances in which declarations are required. These include
7(e) When approaching others
Members must declare a relevant interest in any communication, formal or informal, with those who are responsible for matters of public policy, public expenditure or the delivery of public services. That includes communications with Ministers, either alone or as part of a delegation: with other Members; with public officials (including the staff of government departments or agencies and public office holders). If those communications are in writing, then the declaration should be in writing too; otherwise it should be oral.
216.Mr Paterson told me that, although he could no longer recall all the conversations he had had, he “invariably inform[ed] those [he] spoke to regarding either company that [he] was a consultant to them”. He said he did not recall the detail of his brief conversation with the Secretary of State for International Development on 12 October 2016 but, in his letter the following day, he had stated, “Following our brief chat last night I previously mentioned to you that I work with Randox Laboratories in Northern Ireland.” He also did not recall his call with a named FSA official in the week commencing 7 November 2016 but said he was “certain” he had mentioned being a consultant to Randox.
217.Mr Paterson told me that he frequently made oral disclosures, and in support of this referred to his letter to the Minister of State (DfID) dated 16 January 2017 and FSA’s meeting notes dated 24 May 2018 and 18 December 2018. He stated that “Everyone with whom I dealt, on behalf of either company, was on notice and aware that I was acting as a consultant.”
218.In the note of the meeting between Mr Paterson, Randox and the FSA on 18 December 2018, it was recorded that, “As a paid consultant to Randox, Owen Paterson …” It was also recorded in an internal FSA email sent on 22 January 2018 that Mr Paterson declared his interest as a consultant to Lynn’s during an earlier meeting.
219.Mr Paterson provided a statement from the Veterinary Advisor of the NML, who stated that Mr Paterson declared that he was a paid consultant for Randox.
220.The Technical Director of Lynn’s stated that Mr Paterson always stated he was a consultant to Lynn’s at the outset of each meeting with the FSA.
221.The Professor of Food Safety stated that at the meeting with the FSA in January 2018, “Mr Paterson was clear that he was present in his capacity as a consultant to Lynn’s.”
222.The legal adviser to Lynn’s stated he had noted that Mr Paterson was attending in his capacity as a consultant from Lynn’s. He stated, “Mr Paterson was always transparent in the FSA dealings that I was involved with and there was never any question of the capacity he was acting in”.
223.The Senior Manager at Randox stated he was certain Mr Paterson introduced himself as a paid consultant during the meeting held with DfID. He described Mr Paterson as fastidious in starting each meeting by saying he is a paid consultant to Randox and, “I have often thought that this was a very unnatural way to start a meeting but I understand that this was necessary to ensure Mr Paterson remained within the Parliamentary rules”.
224.Mr Paterson provided statements from his office manager and his Senior Parliamentary Assistant, who both stated that they often heard Mr Paterson introducing himself as a paid consultant.
225.Mr Paterson identified himself as a consultant to Randox in his letter to the DfID Minister on 16 January 2017. The Secretary of State for International Development said that Mr Paterson told her he was a consultant for Randox when approaching her.
226.There are instances where Mr Paterson has communicated with FSA officials and not stated in that communication that he is a consultant. This includes, his email to the FSA Chair on 16 November 2016 (copying in other officials), 15 November 2017, 8 January 2018 and 17 January 2018.
227.I sought advice from the Registrar, who said that she had seen that Mr Paterson declared his outside employment with Randox when he approached DfID ministers, and that he declared his interests at a meeting between FSA and Randox in late 2017 or early 2018. The Registrar noted that the internal FSA briefing for the meeting on 18 December 2018 shows that FSA officials knew Mr Paterson was a paid consultant to Randox. She said that Mr Paterson was right to disclose his business interests to DfID and FSA when he did.
228.The Registrar noted that the Guide to the Rules requires MPs to disclose interests not just in their initial communication with a Minister or agency, but in “any communication, formal or informal”. Noting that his communication with FSA about milk testing spanned three years, the Registrar told me that she would have advised Mr Paterson to make frequent declarations in emails and at meetings, and to make sure these were included in any minutes of meetings.
229.Mr Paterson has stated that he invariably informed those he spoke to regarding either company that he was a consultant, and regularly drew attention to his interests.
230.This is supported by the FSA meeting notes of May 2018 and December 2018. Internal documents provided to me also show that the relevant FSA officials were aware of his financial interest arising from his role as a consultant to Randox and to Lynn’s.
231.This is also supported by Mr Paterson’s declarations of his interests in his two letters to DfID Ministers. The first declaration, in his letter of 13 October 2016, was in terms that suggested that he recognised that he had not made a declaration in his chance conversation with the Secretary of State for International Development, “Following our brief chat last night, I previously mentioned to you that I work with Randox Laboratories in Northern Ireland”. However, the Secretary of State for International Development has stated that Mr Paterson did notify her of his role when he approached her.
232.Mr Paterson has provided a number of statements which refer to him declaring his interest as a consultant to Randox and to Lynn’s regularly and often.
233.In Mr Paterson’s emails to the Chair to the FSA on 16 November 2016 (copying in other officials), 15 November 2017, 8 January 2018 and 17 January 2018, he did not state he was a consultant. The rules clearly require relevant financial interests to be declared in any communication, formal or informal when approaching others. I have already set out why I consider these emails to be approaches by Mr Paterson.
234.I am satisfied that Mr Paterson’s general approach was to declare his interests and that those who had regular contact with him were well aware of these. However, the fact remains that I have seen emails from Mr Paterson to FSA officials which did not include a declaration as required by the rules. Therefore I find that Mr Paterson has breached the rules on declarations. I consider this breach to be towards the minor end of the scale.
235.I find that Mr Paterson has breached the rules on declarations in respect of emails sent to the Chair of the FSA on 16 November 2016, 15 November 2017, 8 January 2018 and 17 January 2018, in which he did not declare he was a consultant to Randox or Lynn’s.
236.Paragraph 15 of the 2015 Code of Conduct stated:
Members are personally responsible and accountable for ensuring that their use of any expenses, allowances, facilities and services provided from the public purse is in accordance with the rules laid down on these matters. Members shall ensure that their use of public resources is always in support of their parliamentary duties. It should not confer any undue personal or financial benefit on themselves or anyone else, or confer undue advantage on a political organisation.
237.Specific rules apply to the use of House-provided stationery. Paragraph 3 of Rules for the use of stationery and postage-paid envelopes provided by the House of Commons, and for the use of the Crowned Portcullis states:
House-provided stationery and pre-paid envelopes are provided only for the performance of a Member’s parliamentary functions. In particular, this excludes using stationery or postage:
(ii) for business purposes; …
238.Mr Paterson told me that the vast majority of communications relating to his consultancies had been by email and he had used his private email account. He said that some letters had been sent to him at his parliamentary address, but he could not control where letters are physically sent.
239.The letters Mr Paterson sent to DfID officials on 13 October 2016 and 16 January 2017 were on House of Commons paper, bearing the crowned portcullis.
240.Mr Paterson said he had located the two letters he had sent using House of Commons paper, for which he apologised. He said a long-term member of staff had been on leave and he had had a temporary member of staff at the relevant time. He told me that the use of House-provided stationery had been “an unfortunate oversight on [his] part” for which he took full responsibility. Mr Paterson told me that he had been an MP since 1997 and this was the first occasion that he had breached a House of Commons rule.
241.I asked Mr Paterson about the inclusion of the parliamentary footer in an email chain I had seen. He said he had no recollection of the email and, having looked into it, the obvious explanation was that the photographs attached to his email of 17 January 2018 from his private email account had been sent first in error to his parliamentary email address, from which it would have been forwarded and, when he forwarded the attached photographs, the footer was attached.
242.Mr Paterson provided a list of meetings he had had with Randox and Lynn’s, with their locations and dates, between 24 October 2016 and February 2020. That list included 27 meetings held on the parliamentary estate, of which 15 were with Randox and 12 with Lynn’s. One of the Randox meetings was about blood testing and also involved the Minister for Policing. Ten of the meetings with Lynn’s were with the same representative of the company and took place most months between January 2019 and February 2020.
243.Mr Paterson said that he had held meetings in his parliamentary office when they were in discharge of his parliamentary duty and when he had to be on the parliamentary estate because of a three-line whip. Mr Paterson added that his constituency is in Shropshire and is not accessible during the parliamentary week, and a serious injury in January 2018 had limited his mobility for some months, which meant he had been less able to leave the parliamentary estate.
244.Mr Paterson said in his email to me that he had kept his consultancy business separate from his parliamentary work but, because he had been Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, there are times when the roles overlapped. He explained that compliance with security protocols arising from holding that office meant that his parliamentary staff dealt with his travel arrangements when visiting Northern Ireland. He said that he and his staff organised any meetings in his parliamentary office and his office managed his diary as they needed to know where he was at all times. Mr Paterson continued “my work with both Lynn’s and Randox is kept separate from my parliamentary duties”.
245.Mr Paterson told me that he:
246.The legal adviser to Lynn’s provided evidence on the meeting on 15 January 2018. He stated, “The meeting was held in Mr Paterson’s office at 1 Parliament Street. As far as I am aware, his office was chosen as a convenient location as neither my firm nor [Lynn’s] had offices in London”.
247.The Registrar said she would have advised Mr Paterson to make sure there was a clear separation between his outside work and his parliamentary duties, so that there was no danger of his using resources funded from the public purse (such as offices, phones, ICT, stationery or the time of his parliamentary staff) to support his outside work. She said it had been right and proper for Mr Paterson to use a private email address for his communications with Randox (as was evidenced in the documents he had provided). However, she also identified occasions when a parliamentary email was used, giving as examples, the exchanges organising a meeting for 9 July 2018. The Registrar noted that the parliamentary footer was included with the attachments to Mr Paterson’s email of 17 January 2018 to the FSA Chair, which might suggest that the parliamentary email system had been used during the correspondence.
248.The Registrar noted the meeting of 9 July 2018 between Mr Paterson and FSA had been planned to take place in 1 Parliament Street. The Registrar advised that such business meetings should not take place in MPs’ parliamentary offices or on the parliamentary estate. If Mr Paterson’s staff arranged these and were paid from parliamentary expenses, this was also a matter for concern.
249.The Registrar said she did not agree that Mr Paterson has no control over where FSA sent their letters to him. She said that if FSA habitually wrote to him at the House of Commons, he should have asked them to write to him at another address. She noted that all the FSA letters were sent in hard copy. In respect of Mr Paterson’s use of parliamentary headed paper when writing to DfID, the Registrar noted that Mr Paterson attributed the use of that stationery to the work of a temporary secretary, and said that, if that person was paid from parliamentary expenses they should not have been engaged on Mr Paterson’s outside work other than on a very occasional basis.
250.Mr Paterson denied using his office improperly for meetings. He has stated that his use of parliamentary resources enabled him to fully discharge his parliamentary duties even during periods of frenetic parliamentary activity and were therefore in support of his parliamentary duties.
251.Mr Paterson said it was not the case that his work with Lynn’s and Randox was always separate from his parliamentary role; as his consultancy work had brought to his attention serious wrongs that he was compelled, as a matter of parliamentary duty, to raise with the relevant public authorities.
252.Mr Paterson’s office manager stated that she had worked in Westminster for over 30 years, and for Mr Paterson since 2015. She stated that Mr Paterson kept his paid consultancies entirely separate from his duties as an MP, always used his personal phone and email address and did not involve his office staff in his consultancy work; save for her involvement in terms of logistics.
253.Mr Paterson’s office manager stated that from October 2016 to December 2017, Mr Paterson conducted 229 meetings in his office, and highlighted that only four Randox meetings and one meeting with Lynn’s meeting were held in his office.
254.Mr Paterson’s Senior Parliamentary Assistant stated she had worked for Mr Paterson for 19 years. She echoed Mr Paterson’s office manager’s comments that Mr Paterson kept his personal business entirely separate from his duties as an MP. She described Mr Paterson’s use of his office for his consultancies as few and far between.
255.Mr Paterson provided a statement from a former MP, who stated that he had no direct knowledge of the particular circumstances but would provide a view on the proper use of the parliamentary estate. He stated that it was acknowledged that, “the purpose for which the taxpayer funds the parliamentary estate is to permit members of Parliament to conduct parliamentary and constituency business”, but that, “it is also a fact recognised both in public discourse and in the rules governing the conduct of members that MPs are permitted to take part in party political, private and business dealings while remaining members of Parliament.”
256.The former MP stated that it was recognised that the parliamentary timetable makes it necessary for MPs to be present on the parliamentary estate over long periods of time to be available to participate at short notice in parliamentary proceedings, and that therefore there are inevitably times when an MP needs to make or receive calls or written communications, or will need to be involved in meetings, that relate to the party political, private or business dealings of the MP. The former MP stated he had never heard any suggestion that it would be thought improper for these to happen and that they were “an everyday occurrence”.
257.The former MP agreed with Mr Paterson that the Brexit debate absorbed a huge amount of time during which participants were compelled to remain on the parliamentary estate to be rapidly available for parliamentary interventions and votes.
258.Mr Paterson provided a statement from Graham Stringer MP who echoed the former MP’s point that June 2017 to December 2019 was an exceptionally busy period within parliament and it was very difficult to plan to be away from the Parliamentary Estate.
259.Mr Paterson provided a statement from Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP, stating, “if there are good reasons, such as the need to be on the Parliamentary Estate during a whip, then you may use your parliamentary office to facilitate the occasional meeting. You may not run a business from your office as this would be improper, but many Members meet with Trade Unionists, journalists, sponsors and businesses in their office as they need to be on the Parliamentary Estate”. Mr Duncan Smith stated he did not see the distinction between having a phone call and holding a meeting and stated that it was a case of using your own reasonable judgment. Mr Duncan Smith also echoed previous comments that Brexit was a particularly busy time.
260.Mr Paterson provided a statement from Rebecca Harris MP, who stated that the proposition that Members with outside interests should not deal with those interests whilst on the Parliamentary Estate, for example using their office, “cannot be correct”. She went on to state, “I have never heard of any suggestion, let alone a rule, prohibiting MPs from using their parliamentary office for all matters relating to outside interests … “. Ms Harris did not consider it practicable to expect members to conduct all their potential non-parliamentary or non-constituency business off the estate.
261.Ms Harris echoed previous comments about Brexit debates being an exceptionally busy time.
262.I shall examine whether Mr Paterson’s use of House-provided resources was always in support of his parliamentary duties.
263.Mr Paterson has accepted that he used House of Commons paper for two letters to DfID, explained this was an oversight by a temporary member of staff, and apologised.
264.Mr Paterson has told me about 27 meetings which he held with Randox and Lynn’s on the parliamentary estate between October 2016 and February 2020. The details of the dates and times of these meetings can be found in the timeline in Appendix 1 to this memorandum.
265.Mr Paterson contends that it was necessary to hold those meetings with his clients on the estate because of the weight, volume and unpredictability of parliamentary business at the relevant times. He told me that it was “simply not practical” to hold meetings off the estate and it was “safer” to arrange meetings on the estate. I accept that the frequency of three-line Whips since June 2016 may have made it more difficult than usual for Members to attend meetings away from the parliamentary estate when the House is sitting. Nonetheless, other than in very rare and exceptional circumstances, Members should not use accommodation and support services provided at public expense for purposes other than their parliamentary activities.
266.Mr Paterson has stated that as his use of his office allowed him to fully discharge his parliamentary activity during exceptionally busy times, this was in support of his parliamentary duties. I do not accept this. These meetings appear to have been at the parliamentary estate to enable Mr Paterson conveniently to undertake his private business obligations.
267.Mr Paterson has provided several statements from Members who consider that the rules allow use of parliamentary offices for private business activity. The rule on the use of parliamentary facilities and services is clearly set out in the Code of Conduct, and I have in mind decisions taken by the Standards Committee and its predecessors when Members were found to have used the parliamentary estate for purposes other than their parliamentary duties.
268.The statements which Mr Paterson has provided to me suggest he may not be the only Member improperly using his office for private interests. If so, I do not believe that this is a mitigating factor. I believe that most Members know and keep to the rules. It is Mr Paterson’s responsibility to ensure he is acting within the rules. I would also advise those who supported Mr Paterson’s business activity on the parliamentary estate to familiarise themselves with the rules of the House.
269.Even if I were to accept - which I do not - that all Mr Paterson’s approaches to FSA were justified because he was seeking resolution of serious wrongs, it is clear from Mr Paterson’s responses to my questions that he has routinely held meetings with, and about, his clients and their interests on the parliamentary estate. These meetings were, by his account, often arranged well in advance. I understand that it was simpler for the arrangements to be allowed to stand when the weekly Whip became available, but I do not see that as justification for using the parliamentary estate for private business interests. More specifically, I do not see how a three-line Whip at 21.00 for 22.00 could justify meetings on the estate at 09.30 and 15.15 on 24 October 2016 and at 15.30 and 16.00 on 31 October 2016. Similarly, I do not think that it was relevant to the arrangements for a meeting at 9.00 on 6 December 2017 that there was a running Whip from 12.30 that day.
270.It is not clear whether every diarised meeting took place and what its exact purpose was. But in my view, 25 of those meetings should not have been held in Mr Paterson’s office on the parliamentary estate. I am prepared to accept that Mr Paterson could properly have used his office to meet colleagues to plan a life sciences reception, or for a brief social visit.
271.Mr Paterson has said that it is incorrect to consider his work with Lynn’s and Randox as entirely separate from his parliamentary role; that his consultancy work had brought to his attention serious wrongs that he was compelled, as a matter of parliamentary duty, to raise with the relevant public authorities. Those concerns might have justified a very small number of meetings on the parliamentary estate, if they were urgent, but there should have been a clear dividing line between his outside work and his parliamentary responsibilities. Nor do the concerns raised by the outside work justify the number of meetings that Mr Paterson held over an extended period of time. And, for the reasons I explain in my assessment of allegation one, I do not, in any case, accept that Mr Paterson’s work with Lynn’s and Randox was part of his parliamentary activity.
272.The House provides Members with accommodation, and supporting services, to enable them to carry out their parliamentary responsibilities. Paragraph 15 of the Code is very clear: “Members shall ensure that their use of public resources is always in support of their parliamentary duties. It should not confer any undue personal or financial benefit on themselves ….” When considering particular cases, my predecessors have sometimes taken the view that a Member’s occasional use of parliamentary resources for non-parliamentary purposes was permissible. Mr Paterson did not make occasional use of parliamentary accommodation for meetings for his outside work. He used it 25 times between October 2016 and February 2020. This conferred upon Mr Paterson a personal benefit of a saving of time and inconvenience that would have resulted from holding the meetings away from the Parliamentary estate. Taking all of the above into account, I have concluded that Mr Paterson acted in breach of paragraph 15 of the then Code of Conduct during this period, misusing Houseprovided resources for purposes other than those for which they were intended.
273.Since May 2010 the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) has administered the scheme for the reimbursement of Members’ business expenses, including the reimbursement of the costs of employing staff to assist Members in their parliamentary duties. Alleged breaches of those rules are considered by the Independent Compliance Officer for IPSA.
274.I have not commented here on the tasks Mr Paterson gave to his parliamentary staff. He told me that - as is proper - he did not use their services for general support of his outside work. But he also told me that he used staff services for “logistics”, which I take to mean for arranging and providing practical support for his business meetings, including those on the parliamentary estate. Parliamentary staff are now funded by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). This use of parliamentary staff time is a matter for IPSA to consider in the first instance.
275.Mr Paterson breached the rule on use of House-provided resources by holding business meetings on the parliamentary estate between October 2016 and February 2020, and in sending two letters to DfID in October 2016 and January 2017 on House-provided stationery.
276.In the first week of November I received via the House authorities a letter from Nigel Pleming QC. It was not addressed to an individual and was said to have been received from unnamed “concerned colleagues” of Mr Paterson. They had asked for the letter to be passed to me. Mr Paterson’s solicitor later forwarded to me a copy of the same letter. Since the letter relates to the detail of my inquiry and was given to the House authorities by unknown parties, I am concerned that the confidentiality of the inquiry may have been breached. If those involved were seeking to influence my inquiry and my findings, this would be a very serious matter.
277.On 1 December 2020 I sent a draft copy of this memorandum to Mr Paterson to allow him the opportunity to comment. He provided a large amount of information which has been incorporated into this memorandum.
278.On 11 June 2020 I sent a further draft copy of this memorandum to Mr Paterson to allow him the opportunity to comment.
279.Mr Paterson’s response can be seen in full in the Written Evidence Pack at WE43. Mr Paterson raised issues concerning the principles set out in Article 6, natural justice, the ACAS Code of Practice, common law and Brown v Dunn and stated that I have failed to follow these principles.
280.Article 6 concerns the determination of civil rights and obligations recognised by domestic law and criminal charges. This inquiry concerns the rules set down in the code of conduct for Members of Parliament. It is an internal House process. It is not a criminal charge and the process does not concern the determination of civil rights and obligations. For these reasons Article 6 does not apply. Despite that, I act so as to ensure that all my inquiries follow a due process approach that would satisfy Article 6 and provide an independent and fair investigation of the allegations.
281.Mr Paterson raises Browne v Dunn and the need to put one’s case in cross examination to a witness whose evidence is not accepted. He describes this a basic principle of common law and natural justice. The case of Browne v Dunn concerns how evidence must be challenged in an adversarial court hearing in England and Wales. This inquiry is not an adversarial court hearing but an internal House proceeding which will lead to a determination of whether Mr Paterson has breached the code of conduct for Members of Parliament. The common law and the case of Browne v Dunn do not apply to this inquiry as it is not an adversarial court hearing, but an internal inquisitorial inquiry conducted under Standing Orders in the House of Commons. I apply a process that I am satisfied is fair and efficient in relation to all evidence produced.
282.Mr Paterson states that the ACAS Code of Practice has not been complied with. The ACAS Code of Practice is designed to help employers, employees and their representatives deal with disciplinary and grievance situations in the workplace. It is not relevant in this inquiry as Mr Paterson is not an employee of the House.
283.The principles of natural justice require that decision makers must inform people of the case against them, they must give those individuals a right to be heard, they must be free from any personal interest in the outcome and must only act on probative evidence. There is no requirement that there must be an adversarial court hearing with the cross examination of witnesses. This is set out more fully in Annex 2 of the Memorandum.
284.This inquiry concerns the conduct of Mr Paterson. The principles of natural justice have been applied because he has been informed of the case against him and has been given the opportunity to be heard. The evidence on which the recommendation has been put to the Committee is that of Mr Paterson’s evidence and the various emails and other evidence relevant to Mr Paterson’s actions in approaching Ministers and other officials and his use of House provided resources.
285.My recommendations do not rely on witness evidence concerning contaminants in milk, mislabelling of products or laboratory calibration as this is not relevant to the issue which is Mr Paterson’s conduct in approaching Ministers and officials on behalf of Randox and Lynn’s. There is no requirement to challenge those witnesses whose evidence concerns contamination and mislabelling as this evidence does not go to the issue being considered.
286.Mr Paterson has commented on my decision to anonymise third parties in the report and written evidence pack. This is in line with my usual practice.
287.My recommendations also do not rely on the other Members’ evidence concerning their use of House resources as the issue is whether Mr Paterson misused House resources. These Members can only give evidence as to their conduct. It is for the Committee to determine whether Mr Paterson has correctly followed the rules on the use of House resources.
288.Mr Paterson states that I have applied the incorrect test. I do not agree with his assessment. I have applied the correct tests from the Rules of Conduct and Guide to the Rules.
289.Mr Paterson also asks for all communications I have had with third parties, FOI requests and all and any documents supplied. The material published by the FSA in response to an FOI request is publicly available. I do not need to know who made the FOI request in order to rely upon the material. I have provided in the Written Evidence pack my correspondence with the FSA, and the material provided in response. I have also provided in the Written Evidence pack all correspondence requesting material from third parties.
290.Mr Paterson says I have broadened the scope of the inquiry. During the course of the inquiry, it became apparent there might have been additional breaches of the rules of conduct. My inquiry was extended in response to this and Mr Paterson was notified in accordance with natural justice.
291.Mr Paterson asks the Committee to refer the matter to a Judge, but it is for the Committee to determine how they will conduct their procedures and I make no comment on that.
292.Parliament allows Members to undertake paid outside work, recognising that this can inform and enrich parliamentary debate and scrutiny. Mr Paterson’s experience, and the contacts he had made in his career, are likely to have made his services particularly valuable to his clients.
293.In the approaches he made to Ministers and senior officials, Mr Paterson’s actions went beyond what was permitted by the rules. Considered in the round, his actions create the impression that companies with money at their disposal can pay Members of Parliament to promote their products to government Ministers and public officials and to help them to overcome regulatory obstacles.
294.I have found that Mr Paterson acted in breach of paragraph 11 of the 2015 Code of Conduct, which prohibits paid advocacy, in respect of approaches he made to the FSA and DfID. Mr Paterson has told me that he was acting as a “whistle-blower” under the exemption provided in paragraph 9 of Chapter 3 of the Guide to the Rules. I accept that he was entitled to this exemption in respect of the approach he made in November 2016, and the meeting he attended on 15 November 2016. But I do not accept that he was entitled to this exemption in his follow up meetings and correspondence as these were intended to benefit his clients rather than to raise a serious wrong.
295.I consider that Mr Paterson was not entitled to the whistle-blowing exemption, and therefore breached paragraph 11 of the Code in his approaches to the FSA, on behalf of Lynn’s and to DfID on behalf of Randox as these were also intended to benefit his clients rather than to raise a serious wrong. He also brought no evidence to FSA and DfID about serious wrongs.
296.Mr Paterson has stated that when addressing a serious wrong, the rules on lobbying do not apply. This is not the case. By Mr Paterson’s application of the rules, any Member dealing with a serious matter could use that as a platform to benefit a company by whom they are paid. The correct interpretation of the rule is that it allows a Member to bring evidence of a serious wrong or substantial injustice to the responsible Minister or official, even if it would have the incidental effect of conferring a financial or material benefit on the organisation which paid him or her. Mr Paterson was seeking benefit for his clients. In those circumstances that benefit to his clients would not be ‘incidental’ but an intended outcome of the approach.
297.I note that Mr Paterson has argued that the approaches he made would have brought wider benefit to public health and for the international aid budget. He also argued that these approaches had the potential to benefit other companies as well as his clients. I have not had to apply any test of wider benefit and these arguments have had no bearing on my finding.
298.I am particularly concerned that Mr Paterson intervened to secure a meeting with FSA officials when his client had previously not been able to obtain the action they wanted; and that he obtained a meeting with DfID Ministers which his client had been unable to secure.
299.I have found that Mr Paterson failed to declare his interests when communicating with FSA officials, in breach of paragraph 13 of the Code of Conduct. I am satisfied that Mr Paterson’s general approach was to declare his interests and that those who had regular contact with him were well aware of these. However, the rules are clear that a Member must make a declaration in any communication when approaching a Minister or official.
300.I have found that Mr Paterson acted in breach of paragraph 15 of the Code of Conduct when he used his parliamentary office and parliamentary meeting facilities for his work for his paying clients, particularly in the 25 meetings which he held on the parliamentary estate; and when he sent two letters on parliamentary paper, for which he has already apologised.
301.Mr Paterson’s breaches of the lobbying were so serious and so numerous that they risked damaging public trust in the House and its members. They create the impression that companies with money at their disposal can pay Members of Parliament to lobby for their benefit. I therefore find that he has also breached paragraph 16 of the 2015 Code. Mr Paterson has not shown the integrity and selflessness expected of him. Although breaches of the rules might in other circumstances be concluded by way of the rectification procedure available to me under Standing Order No 150, Mr Paterson’s breaches are too serious for the rectification procedure to be appropriate. It is for this reason that I must refer this memorandum to the Committee on Standards.
Kathryn Stone OBE
Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards
16 July 2021
Mr Paterson begins work as a consultant for Randox
Mr Paterson receives first payment from Randox
Mr Paterson registers his first payment from Randox
Randox write to DfID asking for a meeting about blood testing
Mr Paterson meets Secretary of State for International Development by chance in Parliament and asks for a meeting for Randox
Mr Paterson sends a follow up letter to Secretary of State for International Development
Mr Paterson meets Randox at 09.30 and 15.15 on the parliamentary estate
Randox and Mr Paterson meet on the parliamentary estate at 15.30 & 16.00 with Home Office Minister
w/c 1 November
Mr Paterson becomes aware of Randox milk testing results
w/c 7 November
Mr Paterson approaches FSA about milk testing
Randox and Mr Paterson meet about milk testing at 14.00 on the parliamentary estate. Randox, FSA and Mr Paterson meet at 15.00. Three-line whip from 12.30
Mr Paterson sends a follow up email to FSA about milk testing
FSA reply, saying contamination of milk was at a low level but agreeing further testing required. FSA say Randox technology is not accredited.
Randox and Mr Paterson meet about blood testing at 16.00 on the parliamentary estate before travelling to and meeting with Minister of State (DfID)
Letter from Mr Paterson to Minister of State (DfID)
Lynn’s make first payment to Mr Paterson
Randox make a private social visit to the parliamentary estate at 9.00. One-line whip
Mr Paterson registers first payment from Lynn’s
Lynn’s approach FSA
Minister of State (DfID) writes to Mr Paterson about blood testing
Randox and Mr Paterson meet about the Grand National at 11.00 on the parliamentary estate. Three-line whip
Randox increase Mr Paterson’s pay and hours
Mr Paterson registers increase in his pay from Randox
Randox and Mr Paterson meet in House of Lords by invitation about the Life Sciences Reception at 19.00. Three-line whip from 21.00
Mr Paterson meets FSA on the parliamentary estate at 13.00 about meat additives, and at 14.00 about milk testing. Three-line whip. Mr Paterson emails the FSA Chair about meat additives.
FSA write to Lynn’s saying that Lynn’s proposals amount to using additives, and to say that the other company had agreed to relabelling
Randox and Mr Paterson meet on the parliamentary estate at 9.00 to discuss implications for the French dairy industry. Three-line whip from 12.30
Mr Paterson meets FSA on the parliamentary estate at 15.45 with Lynn’s and others about reclassification of ingredients. Three-line whip in the evening
Mr Paterson emails FSA
FSA and Mr Paterson meet on the parliamentary estate about milk testing
FSA reply to Mr Paterson’s email
Randox and Mr Paterson meet at 12.00 on the parliamentary estate. Three-line whip from 12.30
Mr Paterson meets with FSA, Lynn’s and legal advisers about Lynn’s Country Food’s products
Randox and Mr Paterson meet on the parliamentary estate at 10.30 about the Life Sciences Reception. Deferred divisions from 11.30
29 June -2 July
Emails sent by Mr Paterson’s office about a meeting on 9 July about Lynn’s products
Mr Paterson meets with the FSA Chair about Lynn’s products, planned to be held on the parliamentary estate
Email from Mr Paterson to FSA
Randox and Mr Paterson meet at 9.00 on the parliamentary estate about the Life Sciences reception. Three-line whip from 12.30
Randox and Mr Paterson meet at 10.00 on the parliamentary estate. Deferred divisions from 11.30
FSA write to Mr Paterson
Mr Paterson meets FSA on the parliamentary estate to discuss milk testing and food additives
Lynn’s meet Mr Paterson on the parliamentary estate
Lynn’s meet Mr Paterson on the parliamentary estate
Lynn’s meet Mr Paterson on the parliamentary estate
Lynn’s meet Mr Paterson on the parliamentary estate
Lynn’s meet Mr Paterson on the parliamentary estate
Lynn’s meet Mr Paterson on the parliamentary estate
Lynn’s meet Mr Paterson on the parliamentary estate
Lynn’s meet Mr Paterson on the parliamentary estate
Lynn’s meet Mr Paterson on the parliamentary estate
Lynn’s meet Mr Paterson on the parliamentary estate
1.The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone, (‘the Commissioner’) aims to carry out independent, fair, thorough, and impartial inquiries that meet the requirements of natural justice.
2.Mr Paterson has raised concerns about whether the inquiry into his conduct under the Code of Conduct was fair and accorded with natural justice. In particular, he has raised the following specific instances which he believes indicates that the process was unfair and failed to meet the requirements of natural justice.
a)The inquiry was opened just before Parliament was dissolved; it would have been fairer to wait to see if he was re-elected.
b)The Commissioner failed to interview Mr Paterson and failed to take up his offer of a meeting, instead conducting the inquiry through a series of letters.
c)The Commissioner relied on evidence in the form of hypothetical questions to the Registrar for Members’ Financial interests, who was not independent but a junior member of The Commissioner’s team.
d)There were excessive delays in the inquiry, such as the delay from 19 March to 29 May 2020.
e)The Commissioner and her team failed to understand the material, for example she asked in November 2020 whether Mr Paterson was an employee or a consultant to Randox and Lynn’s, when Mr Paterson had already said in January 2020 that he was a paid consultant.
f)The Commissioner failed to interview relevant witnesses.
g)The Commissioner misinterpreted the rules and strained to find breaches, in particular she failed to correctly apply the rules on paid advocacy.
h)The Commissioner failed to provide all relevant documentation to Mr Paterson for his comments, in particular only part of a FOIA request was provided.
i)Insufficient time was allowed for Mr Paterson to respond to the draft memorandum and obtain evidence in rebuttal.
3.The principles of natural justice can be summarised as follows:
a)decision-makers must inform people of any case against them or their interests
b)decision-makers must give these individuals a right to be heard
c)decision-makers must be free from any personal interest in the outcome
d)decision-makers must act only on logically probative evidence
4.This annex will analyse the particular concerns raised by Mr Paterson and whether the inquiry has been conducted fairly and in accordance with the principles of natural justice.
5.Mr Paterson says that the Commissioner acted unfairly in opening the inquiry when she was aware that Parliament would shortly be dissolved, and it would have been fairer to wait to see if he was re-elected before opening the inquiry.
a)The initiation letter to Mr Paterson opening this inquiry was sent on 30 October 2019 shortly before the Dissolution of Parliament even though The Commissioner would have to halt work during the Dissolution period.
b)The inquiry was opened at that time because it is the Commissioner’s practice to inform a Member as soon as practicable once the decision has been made to initiate an inquiry. This is in the interests of fairness and because a delay in informing a Member about a decision to open an inquiry might disadvantage them, for example they might dispose of relevant evidence because they were not aware of the inquiry. Promptly informing a Member of an inquiry may also minimise delays by ensuring that the inquiry can be re-started as soon as the new Parliament is formed.
6.Mr Paterson says it is unfair that the Commissioner failed to interview him or take up his offer of meeting in person, instead conducting the inquiry through a series of letters.
a)The Commissioner conducted the inquiry in accordance with her usual practice, through a series of letters, rather than in an interview. She did this as she needs detailed answers to conduct her inquiry and, in her experience, Members generally prefer to respond in writing as this gives them time for consideration, and to identify any material they have that supports their responses. The use of letters to conduct the inquiry was intended to allow Mr Paterson the best opportunity of responding fully, and to attempt to minimise the impact and stress of the process and the Commissioner was not made aware until the end of the inquiry that Mr Paterson would have preferred to attend an interview.
b)The Commissioner sent a number of letters containing questions, both as she needed to ask further questions in response to his answers and to obtain his comments as further information came to light. For example, in Mr Paterson’s first letter he said that he believed he had approached public officials with or on behalf of companies which paid him, which is against the rules except in very narrow circumstances. The Commissioner asked further questions to establish whether his approaches were justified under the “serious wrong” provision in paragraph 9 of chapter 3 of the Guide to the Rules. Mr Paterson also said he had used Parliamentary resources in the course of his outside work. The Commissioner asked further questions to establish the extent of his use of Parliamentary resources and whether it was in breach of the rules.
c)It is not correct that Mr Paterson offered to meet the Commissioner and she failed to take up this offer. In her initial letter the Commissioner said, “While I do not, at this stage, know whether it will be necessary to interview you about this matter, it would be open to you to be accompanied at any interview. I am, of course, very happy to meet with you at any stage if you would find that helpful”. In his reply of 16 January 2020, Mr Paterson said, “If you wish to interview me, I would be pleased to meet you. If you require any additional information, please let me know”. On 26 November 2020 the Senior Investigations and Complaints Manager asked Mr Paterson’s solicitor if Mr Paterson would like a remote meeting with the Commissioner, but this was declined. In January 2021 Mr Paterson asked to meet the Commissioner and the Commissioner agreed to a remote meeting which has now taken place.
7.Mr Paterson criticises the reliance on evidence in the form of hypothetical questions to the Registrar for Members’ Financial Interests, describing her as not independent but a junior member of The Commissioner’s team. The Guide to the Rules, paragraph 17, makes it clear that no written guidance can provide for all circumstances and the Registrar is available to give advice to Members. For this reason, the Commissioner sought the Registrar’s views, as a member of her team with extensive experience in other cases, so she could draw on that experience to test the evidence in this case. Her advice is just that, it is a matter for the Commissioner as to whether or not she accepts this advice.
8.Mr Paterson has criticised delays in the inquiry, in particular the delay in responding to his letter of 19 March 2020 which was not replied to until 29 May 2020.
a)It is accepted that there were delays in the inquiry. These include a delay by Mr Paterson in responding to the Commissioner’s initiation letter of 30 October 2019, Parliament returned on 17 December, but Mr Paterson did not reply until 16 January, and the delay by the Commissioner who responded to Mr Paterson’s letter of 19 March on 29 May. This was partly due to the move of the Commissioner’s office to home working due to the pandemic, and due to the pressure of work. There were unavoidable delays due to Mr Paterson’s bereavement. The final delays were caused by Mr Paterson’s request for additional time to produce evidence and respond to the draft Memorandum.
b)It is correct that this inquiry has taken longer than the Commissioner would have liked, but this was partly due to the need for a thorough inquiry given the seriousness of the allegations, and only one lengthy delay (from March to May 2020) was caused by the Commissioner’s office, other delays were at the request of Mr Paterson. Although unfortunate, there is no evidence that the length of time this inquiry has taken has made the inquiry unfair, rather Mr Paterson has been allowed extra time to produce evidence.
9.Mr Paterson has criticised a failure to understand the material by the Commissioner and her staff. In particular, he says that he was asked in November 2020 whether he was an employee or consultant of Randox or Lynn’s. He points out that he told the Commissioner on 16 January 2020 that he was a consultant and that this was declared in the Register and to be asked this again in November 2020 shows a failure to understand the material he had already provided.
a)The Commissioner asked for the clarification in November 2020 because she had noted that ACoBa had referred to “your employer” and although Mr Paterson had referred to himself as a consultant, in the absence of any contract for both consultancies the Commissioner felt it important to get confirmation on this point.
b)The terms employee and consultant are not necessarily contradictory, it is possible to work as a consultant while being an employee, so it was important to clarify whether Mr Paterson was both a consultant and an employee or only a consultant.
c)As the Commissioner’s inquiry is inquisitorial and not adversarial, she needs to ask follow up questions and ascertain relevant facts in order to be able to make a decision that is evidence based. The Commissioner needed to confirm whether Mr Paterson was an employee or consultant and in the absence of a written contract she needed to clarify this with Mr Paterson.
10.Mr Paterson says that the inquiry is unfair as the Commissioner has failed to interview relevant witnesses. Mr Paterson has not set out which witnesses the Commissioner failed to interview but has provided some witness statements himself.
a)Much of the additional witness evidence produced by Mr Paterson is not relevant to this inquiry. This is because some of the witnesses produce evidence as to the harm caused by the products, but the issue is not whether there was serious harm, but whether Mr Paterson’s actions fell wholly within the exception in paragraph 9 of chapter 3 of the Guide to the Rules, or whether he went beyond raising evidence of a serious wrong that would have the incidental effect of conferring a benefit on one of the companies for which he was a consultant, into paid advocacy on their behalf.
b)The additional evidence provided by Mr Paterson that is relevant will be considered by the Commissioner when she makes her determination.
11.Mr Paterson says that the inquiry is unfair as the Commissioner misinterpreted the rules and strained to find breaches.
a)The Commissioner has set out her reasoning in detail in her Memorandum. The Commissioner’s duties include advising the Committee and individual Members on the interpretation of the Code of Conduct and as such, she is an expert on the interpretation of the Rules.
b)The Commissioner’s duties also include investigating this matter and then reporting to the Committee on Standards who will decide whether they accept her reasoning and whether they find Mr Paterson’s conduct to be in breach of the rules. Mr Paterson therefore has an opportunity to challenge the Commissioner’s findings in another forum, so is not disadvantaged if he believes the Commissioner’s interpretation of the Rules to be incorrect.
12.Mr Paterson says that the inquiry is unfair as he has not been provided with all relevant documentation. In particular, a Freedom of Information Act request was discovered towards the end of the inquiry and part of this was disclosed to Mr Paterson as it concerned one of the meetings referred to in the evidence.
a)The FOIA request that was disclosed at the end of the inquiry was disclosed late as the Commissioner’s team only became aware of it late in the process. The substantive part of the document containing details of meetings was disclosed as that was relevant to the inquiry. The procedural documents concerning the FOIA request were not disclosed as they were not relevant and were not referred to in the Memorandum. Mr Paterson was given the opportunity to comment on the material that was relied on and alerted to the existence of the remainder of the FOIA request.
13.Mr Paterson alleges unfairness as he was allowed insufficient time to respond to the draft Memorandum, and as a result he had to work over Christmas to meet the deadline.
a)The draft Memorandum was sent to Mr Paterson for a factual accuracy check on 1 December 2020. This was not intended to be the stage at which Mr Paterson began to collect evidence and submit his case. Mr Paterson had originally been informed of the nature of the allegations in October 2019 and had been asked a number of questions since, so the Commissioner believed Mr Paterson had had sufficient opportunity to become acquainted with the nature of the allegations and present any evidence he thought relevant.
b)As the inquiry had been delayed already and the Commissioner did not expect Mr Paterson to bring additional evidence at this stage, he was asked to respond in 2 weeks, on 15 December, well before Christmas, however, at Mr Paterson’s request this time has been extended more than once to enable Mr Paterson to submit additional evidence.
14.In considering whether the inquiry has been fair the following principles of natural justice have been considered,
a)decision-makers must inform people of any case against them or their interests.
b)decision-makers must give these individuals a right to be heard.
c)decision-makers must be free from any personal interest in the outcome.
d)decision-makers must act only on logically probative evidence.
15.Mr Paterson was informed of the nature of the inquiry at the outset of the inquiry on October 2019 and the nature of the allegation has not changed. He has been asked a number of questions about the detail of the inquiry and has had the opportunity to respond. He has also seen the draft Memorandum and been given the opportunity to check its accuracy and comment on it.
16.Mr Paterson was notified of the inquiry in October 2019 he was asked a number of questions and given an opportunity to respond. He has been asked a number of questions to clarify the issues and on each occasion has been given an opportunity to respond. He was given a copy of the draft Memorandum and offered an opportunity to check its factual accuracy and, at his request, more time has been allowed on a number of occasions to ensure he can provide evidence to support his account.
17.The Commissioner is independent and appointed by the House, she does not have a personal interest in the outcome of the case.
18.The Commissioner has carefully collected the evidence that she considers relevant and has offered Mr Paterson the opportunity to see the evidence and allowed additional time for him to provide additional evidence to support his case. Her draft Memorandum is detailed and carefully sets out which items of evidence she has relied on to make her decision.
19.Although there has been some delay in concluding this case, this has been partly due to delays in the Commissioner’s office when the office had to relocate to working from home, but a number of the delays were at Mr Paterson’s request to enable him to respond fully to the inquiry.
20.Mr Paterson has been informed of the nature of the case against him. He has had an opportunity to respond to the evidence and produce his own evidence. The Commissioner is independent with no personal interest in the outcome and she has set out the evidence she relies on in her Memorandum. In these circumstances the inquiry does not breach the principles of natural justice.
October 2019: I began the inquiry
30 October 2019: I wrote to Mr Paterson, informing him of my inquiry and requesting information relevant to the allegations
16 January 2020: Mr Paterson responded to my initiation letter, providing accompanying material
27 January 2020: I wrote to the Registrar of Members’ Financial interests, requesting advice regarding the allegations. I informed Mr Paterson that I had done this
25 February 2020: I wrote to Mr Paterson providing the Registrar’s advice and asking some additional questions
19 March 2020: Mr Paterson responded to the Registrar’s advice and my additional questions
21 March 2020: The UK entered a state of lockdown and I and my team had to adapt our working practices
29 May 2020: I wrote to Mr Paterson with some additional questions, having reviewed the material he provided
18 June 2020: Mr Paterson responded to my additional questions
End June 2020: I suspended my inquiry after Mr Paterson suffered a close family bereavement
9 November 2020: I resumed my work on the inquiry
23 November 2020: I asked Mr Paterson a point of clarification
24 November 2020: Mr Paterson responded to my request for clarification
1 December 2020: I wrote to Mr Paterson attaching a draft copy of my memorandum, requesting his comments by 15 December
10 December 2020: Mr Paterson’s solicitor asked that I extend the deadline for his comments, and for him to provide additional evidence
15 December 2020: I wrote to Mr Paterson extending the deadline to receive his comments to 10 January 2020 (later extended to 13 January 2021 as 10 January 2021 fell on a Sunday)
5 January 2021: My office wrote to Mr Paterson drawing his attention to a section of the FSA FOI material which I had not previously had sight of
8 January 2021: Mr Paterson’s solicitor wrote to my office querying what test I had applied when considering evidence to be relevant, and asking for an additional extension to his deadline to return material to me by 27 January 2021
12 January 2021: I agreed to Mr Paterson’s request to extend the deadline for receiving any additional evidence to 27 January 2021
15 January 2021: Mr Paterson responded to my draft memorandum and provided a substantial body of material
2 February 2021: I responded to Mr Paterson, setting out my response to the points he had raised about the inquiry. I confirmed I would update him as to the progress of the memorandum on 14 February 2021.
4 February 2021: Mr Paterson wrote to me requesting a meeting and providing an additional witness statement
11 February 2021: I wrote to Mr Paterson agreeing to his request to meet, but stating the meeting would be over video call, and providing an agenda
19 February 2021: Mr Paterson’s office informed me he would respond the following week
24 February 2021: Mr Paterson wrote to me raising three points about the inquiry. Mr Paterson stated he was in the process of collecting additional evidence, and stated he wished to meet in person.
1 March 2021: I responded to Mr Paterson’s letter setting out my position and stating that the meeting could only be over video call, and should occur within the next week to avoid further delay to the inquiry
5 March 2021: Mr Paterson wrote to me stating that he anticipated his enquiries would be complete within 2–3 weeks and that he would be in touch to arrange a meeting at that point
16 March 2021: I wrote to Mr Paterson setting out my position, and stating that I expected any additional evidence to be provided by 26 March, and that any meeting would have to occur before then
17 March 2021: Mr Paterson emailed me confirming his availability on 26 March 2021
19 March 2021: Mr Paterson provided an additional witness statement, and stated he was expecting to receive at least one further statement in the coming days
24 March 2021: I wrote to the FSA requesting material, asking for the material to be provided by 7 April
26 March 2021: I interviewed Mr Paterson, at his request. Mr Paterson provided me with two additional witness statements prior to the meeting
30 March 2021: I wrote to Mr Paterson asking further questions that I had not been able to put to him in the interview and providing him with a copy of the interview transcript. I asked for the response to these questions and any suggested amendments to the transcript by 9 April.
9 April 2021: Mr Paterson responded with further evidence
21 April 2021: I wrote to a witness to request a statement, after none had been forthcoming from Mr Paterson
23 April 2021: The FSA provided the material that had been requested
11 May 2021: I received a statement from an outstanding witness
3 June 2021: I met with Mr Paterson
ACoBA: Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, who considers applications under the business appointment rules about new jobs for former ministers
Chief Vet: The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer, an official in the British government who is head of veterinary services in the United Kingdom.
Daera: The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland
Defra: The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; government department responsible for environmental protection, food production and standards, agriculture, fisheries and rural communities in the United Kingdom
DfID: The Department for International Development; government department responsible for administering overseas aid.
Florfenicol: A semi-synthetic antibacterial agent.
FSA: The Food Standards Agency, responsible for food safety and food hygiene in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Lynn’s: Lynn’s Country Foods, a limited company which processes and distributes food products. Mr Paterson is a consultant for Lynn’s.
Milk Quality Forum: A forum set up by Mr Paterson to improve the quality of milk.
Nitrate: A salt or ester of nitric acid, often used as a preservative
Nitrite: A salt or ester of nitrous acid, often used as a preservative
NML: National Milk Laboratories; provides payment testing, microbiology and other testing services to dairy farmers
PCS: Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards; the Commissioner is independent of Parliament and investigates allegations that MPs have breached the House of Commons’ Code of Conduct for Members.
Prosur: A company that creates and produces preservatives. Their product was used by Lynn’s to preserve bacon and ham products
Randox: Randox Laboratories Ltd, a company in the vitro diagnostics industry. Mr Paterson is a consultant for Randox.
RASFF: Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed. This is primarily an IT tool designed to swiftly exchange information between national authorities on health risks related to food and feed.
VMD: Veterinary Medicines Directorate; an executive agency which protects animal health, public health and the environment.
151 General principles of conduct, part IV of The Code of Conduct together with The Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members, HC 1882
152 WE 2
153 WE 3 enclosures
156 See: (Parliament.uk)
158 WE25 xiv
160 WE25 xiv
161 WE11 i
163 Committee on Standards and Privileges, Third Report of Session 2012–13, Proposed Revisions to the Guide to the Rules relating to the conduct of Members, HC 636, para 162
164 Committee on Standards and Privileges, Third Report of Session 2012–13, Proposed Revisions to the Guide to the Rules relating to the conduct of Members, HC 636, para 25
165 Committee on Standards and Privileges, Third Report of Session 2012–13, Proposed Revisions to the Guide to the Rules relating to the conduct of Members, HC 636, para 25
166 Dates are drawn from evidence set out below
169 WE25 xxvii
170 WE25 xxvii
171 WE25 xxvii
172 WE25 xxvii
173 WE6 i
176 WE6 ii
179 WE6 iii
180 WE3 xxiii
181 WE 3 xviii
182 WE25 xvi
183 WE25 xv
185 WE25 xxviii
187 WE25 xiv
188 WE25 xv
189 WE25 xv
190 Randox Annual Report 2017
191 Veterinary Medicines Directorate,
195 Dates are drawn from evidence set out below
198 WE25 xi
199 WE25 xi
200 WE25 xi
201 WE25 xii
202 WE25 xiii
203 Food Standards Authority Ireland
204 WE3 vi
205 WE6 viii
206 WE39 i
207 WE25 xi
208 WE6 ix
209 WE39 ii
210 Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed
211 The substance used to cure Lynn’s bacon
212 WE25 iv
213 WE25 iv
214 WE25 iv
215 WE25 vii
216 WE25 xi
217 WE6 x
218 WE6 x
219 WE39 i
220 WE6 xi
221 WE39 i
222 WE25 xi
223 WE6 xii
224 WE3 xxvi
225 9 July 2018
226 WE3 xiv
227 WE6 xiii
228 WE3 xvii
229 WE3 xviii
233 WE25 xii
238 WE25 vii
239 WE25 vii
243 Dates are drawn from evidence set out below
244 WE6 iv
245 WE6 v
246 WE6 iv
247 WE25 xiv
250 WE6 v
253 WE25 xiv
254 WE25 xiv
255 WE25 xxii
256 WE25 xxii
257 WE6 vi and WE6 v
259 WE6 vi
261 WE6 vii
262 WE25 xxii
272 Internal Quality Control and External Quality Assessment
275 WE3 xxiii
276 WE39 i
277 WE25 xvii
278 WE25 xi
279 WE25 vii
280 WE25 xiii
281 WE25 xiv
282 WE25 xx
284 WE6 i
285 WE6 iii
286 WE25 iv
287 WE6 x
290 WE6 vi and WE6 v
293 WE11 ii
295 WE25 xiii
298 WE25 xx
299 WE25 xxi
300 WE25 xxiii
301 WE25 xxiv
302 WE25 xxv
303 WE25 xxvi
304 ; Committee on Standards and Privileges, 23rd Report of 2010–12, HC 1887 (Liam Fox)
307 General principles of conduct, part IV of the Code of Conduct for Members