LIBERAL Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain has blasted the UK Government for its conduct over the Owen Paterson sleaze scandal.

Speaking during an emergency debate on the issue, Chamberlain said it was the type of behaviour that happens in "Moscow" or "Beijing", not in the House of Commons.

She said: “This is almost the kind of behaviour we would expect to see in the Duma in Moscow, National People’s Congress in Beijing, not in the House of Commons.

“Previous prime ministers and previous governments have all had their failings, but it’s a long time since we have seen these issues and the absolute lack of resolve to do anything about it.

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“They say a fish rots from the head down, and I’m disappointed to see that the Prime Minister has chosen not to turn up to today to answer questions, given that the leader of the opposition is in his place.

“You can’t help but feel that he thinks the rules don’t apply to him.”

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.

Intervening, Labour’s Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough) branded the Prime Minister a “tin-pot dictator who himself is now mired in sleaze”.

His words prompted the a rebuke from the Speaker, who said: “Please moderate language, moderate thoughts, let’s do this right.”

Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay said he and his colleagues on the Government frontbench “regret” the “mistake” they made last week over the issue of standards.

He told MPs: “I’d like, first and foremost, to express my regret and that of my ministerial colleagues over the mistake made last week.

“We recognise there are concerns across the House over the standards system and also the process by which possible breaches of the code of conduct are investigated.

“Yet whilst sincerely held concerns clearly warrant further attention, the manner in which the Government approached last week’s debate conflated them with the response to an individual case.

“This House shares a collective interest in ensuring that the code of conduct reflects and fosters the highest standards of public life.

“The Government fully recognises that the standards committee is critical to this, including the important role performed by its chairman (Labour MP Chris Bryant).”

MPs asked why the Prime Minister was not in attendance at a Commons debate on MPs’ standards.

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Chamberlain added: “This is a Prime Minister who flew to Afghanistan to escape a vote on Heathrow when he was foreign secretary, and has driven to the North East to escape questions today.”

A shout of “Run, Boris, Run!” came from the opposition benches.

She added: “There are many questions that demand answers and many of those involve the Prime Minister’s personal role in this affair.

“A Prime Minister who has been under investigation more than any other member in recent years, and the question is: who stands to benefit from getting the current standards processes out of the way?

“Members of the public will have to draw their own conclusions on that with the Prime Minister not being here today.”