BORIS Johnson will refuse to show up to a three-hour Commons grilling on the latest Tory sleaze scandal, it has been confirmed.

The Conservative government will face calls for a public inquiry as MPs consider how to clean up Westminster following the Owen Paterson row.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Prime Minister should apologise to the nation and “clean out the filthy Augean stable he has created”. However, Johnson will not show up at all, with Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay set to take his place.

The Commons will spend three hours hearing an emergency debate on the situation, despite ministers seeking to dismiss the row as a “storm in a teacup”.

The LibDems, who secured the debate, have called for a statutory public inquiry into sleaze and corruption allegations.

The inquiry, which would have the power to summon witnesses and take evidence under oath, would examine not only the Paterson row but also the awarding of coronavirus contracts, whether Johnson’s holidays in villas provided by friends were properly declared, and how the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat was funded.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said Johnson was attending a “longstanding” hospital visit in Northumberland and he would be unable to get back in time for the start of the debate.

Asked when the Tory leader would finish his visit to Northumberland, the spokesman said he did not have an exact time.

Speaking during the hospital visit, the Prime Minister refused to apologise for his government's handling of the Paterson saga.

The National:

"What we’ve got to make sure is that we take all this very, very seriously and that we get it right," he told reporters. “And there’s a debate today, unfortunately I can’t be there because I had a long-standing engagement up here.

“The opposition obviously want to focus on a particular case, a particular MP who suffered a serious personal tragedy, and who’s now resigned. What we want to do … and I frankly, I don’t think there’s much more to be said about that particular case, I really don’t.

“But what we do need to do is look also at the process, and that is what we were trying to do last week and what I hope is that there will be through the good offices of the Speaker – and if what I read and I hear, that hope may be well-founded – there will be cross-party agreement on a way forward, including an appeals process for very difficult and very sad cases such as the one we’ve seen."

A debate was granted last week by Speaker Lindsay Hoyle following Tory attempts to block an immediate 30-day suspension for Paterson over an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules.

Conservative MPs were ordered instead to back the creation of a Tory-led committee to look again at Paterson’s case and the whole standards system.

But after a backlash the Government performed a U-turn and Paterson subsequently quit as an MP, leaving what he called the “cruel world of politics”.

Reports at the weekend suggested the Speaker may put forward his own proposals for reform of the standards process in an effort to take some of the increasingly bitter politics out of the row.

Ahead of the emergency debate, Starmer said the Prime Minister must publicly confirm that former Cabinet minister Paterson will not be nominated for a peerage.

Downing Street sources have indicated there is no intention for Paterson to be given a seat in the Upper Chamber.

Starmer will lead the debate for Labour, but Johnson will hand Barclay (below) the job of representing the Government.

The National:

READ MORE: SNP demand police investigation into Tory 'cash for honours' scandal

Tory minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said she did not think Johnson needed to be at the debate into standards.

Speaking to Sky News, she said she did not know whether the PM would attend the debate, adding: “My opinion would be that no, he shouldn’t be there, he will no doubt – as we all do – have the House of Commons on in his office as he’s dealing with many, many other issues that only a Prime Minister that can deal with.

“He will get a briefing of the key issues raised by colleagues from across the House later on, I believe that the Leader and other ministers will be well placed to take the despatch box this afternoon.”

Starmer demanded that the Prime Minister show up. “Boris Johnson needs to attend this debate, answer for his mistakes, apologise to the country and take action to undo the damage he has done,” he said.

“The country is yet to hear a word of contrition over his attempts to create one rule for him and his friends and another for everyone else. He must now come to the House and say sorry.”

The LibDems pushed for a change to Commons rules to prevent any MPs being investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from voting on or proposing amendments to motions related to disciplinary issues.

LibDem chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said it was “the equivalent of defendants in a court case also taking part in the jury”.

She added: “Time and again Government ministers have refused to properly investigate allegations of sleaze, failed to declare relevant meetings and donations and tried to rig the system to cover their own backs.

“We need an independent public inquiry, with the powers and resources to get to the bottom of this Conservative sleaze scandal.”

Tory MPs, who have been contacted by furious constituents about the situation, remain angry at the handling of the Paterson case and relations have not been helped by Environment Secretary George Eustice’s claim that it was a “Westminster storm in a teacup”.

High Peak MP Robert Largan, one of the new generation of Tory MPs elected in 2019, criticised Eustice’s attempt to downplay the row, telling Times Radio: “I don’t think it’s very helpful to say, ‘oh, it’s just a storm in a teacup’.

“In my view this was something that we got badly wrong and they need to fix it.”

Another 2019 Tory MP told the PA news agency that Eustice’s comments were “complete nonsense”.

The MP said: “They need to get a grip and understand that this isn’t the way the world works any more. It might have been 20 years ago or something like that, but people expect – rightly so – the highest standards.”