THE Conservative government's controversial plan to overhaul the standards system at Westminster in order to protect one MP found guilty of lobbying looks dead in the water after opposition, media, and trade unions erupted in outrage.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said the vote on reviewing the disciplinary system and preventing the immediate suspension of Owen Paterson - who has now stepped down as an MP - had “created a certain amount of controversy”.

He told MPs: “It is important that standards in this House are done on a cross-party basis.

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“The House voted very clearly yesterday to show that it is worried about the process of handling these complaints and that we would like an appeals system, but the change would need to be on a cross-party basis and that is clearly not the case."

The vote passed by 250 to 232, with 13 Tories rebelling against the three-line whip - the strongest available - handed down by Boris Johnson (below).

The National: Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday November 3, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story Politics PMQs. Photo credit should read: House of Commons/PA Wire.

Rees-Mogg said that, despite the victory, the lack of cross-party support made the plan unviable. 

Labour, the SNP, and the LibDems had vowed to boycott any new committee, depriving the panel of any real cross-party authority.

The Tory leader of the House of Commons went on: “While there is a very strong feeling on both sides of the House that there is a need for an appeals process, there is equally a strong feeling that this should not be based on a single case or apply retrospectively.

“I fear last night’s debate conflated an individual case with the general concern. This link needs to be broken.

“Therefore I and others will be looking to work on a cross-party basis to achieve improvements in our system for future cases.

“We will bring forward more detailed proposals once there have been cross-party discussions.”

Paterson would normally face a suspension, a recall petition, and a potential by-election. Instead, Boris Johnson ordered his MPs to vote to bring the entire process under review, protecting Paterson’s position.

In light of the Tory government's U-turn after the successful vote, it is unclear what punishment Paterson will face.

Previously, an ethics adviser to Boris Johnson had suggested the Prime Minister failed to uphold principles on standards by blocking Paterson’s immediate suspension through an overhaul of the disciplinary system.

Lord Evans, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said the move to block former minister Paterson’s six-week ban was a “very serious and damaging moment for Parliament”.

And the former MI5 chief criticised the Tory-led review into the disciplinary process for MPs as being “deeply at odds with the best traditions of British democracy”.

The Government was facing allegations of “corruption” after Johnson ordered Conservatives not to back the cross-party Standards Committee’s call for Paterson’s suspension.

The National: Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng (above) stoked further outrage by suggesting independent standards commissioner Kathryn Stone should resign after finding Paterson repeatedly lobbied ministers and officials for two companies paying him more than £100,000 per year.

Lord Evans, whose panel advises the Prime Minister on upholding ethical standards in public life, issued an extraordinary criticism of the vote held on Wednesday.

“It cannot be right to propose an overhaul of the entire regulatory system in order to postpone or prevent sanctions in a very serious case of paid lobbying by an MP,” he told an Institute for Government event.

READ MORE: Cries of 'shame' erupt in Commons as MPs vote to protect Tory who broke rules

“And it cannot be right to propose that the standards system in the House of Commons should be reviewed by a select committee chaired by a member of the ruling party and with a majority of members from that same party.

“This extraordinary proposal is deeply at odds with the best traditions of British democracy.

“The political system in this country does not belong to one party or even to one Government, it is a common good that we have all inherited from our forebears and that we all have a responsibility to preserve and to improve.”