A SCOTTISH MP has opened a debate in the Commons on the Conservatives’ attempt to reform sleaze probe rules for politicians.

Wendy Chamberlain, Liberal Democrat MP for North East Fife, criticised the Prime Minister for his failure to attend the debate, which is looking at the damage caused by his decision to try and change the way parliamentarians are investigated when accused of wrongdoing.

The background behind the decision came when Owen Paterson, former North Shropshire MP, faced a 30-day suspension over a £100,000 a year lobbying row.

The changes to the rules could have seen Mr Paterson avoid penalty.

The Government has insisted that the decision to try and push through changes to the rules was not linked to Mr Paterson, but acknowledged the timing made it appear so. It also acknowledged there was not cross-party agreement behind the rule changes, and was forced to U-turn.

Ms Chamberlain, the LibDems chief whip, told MPs: “They say the fish rots from the head down and I'm disappointed to see that the Prime Minister has chosen not to turn up…You can't help but feel that he thinks the rules don't apply to him.

“It is a great shame that the Prime Minister hasn't graced us with this presence this afternoon, because there's still a huge amount that we do not know about the events of last week and there are many questions that demand answers, and many of those involve the Prime Minister's personal role in the affair.

“A Prime Minister who's been under investigation more times than any other member in recent years.

“The question is who stands to benefit from getting the current standards processes out of the way?”

Intervening, Labour MP Tan Dhesi, described Mr Johnson as a “tinpot dictator mired in sleaze”.

He was chastised by speaker Lindsay Hoyle, who had told MPs prior to the debate to try and maintain a civil and non-partisan approach to the heated subject.

Responding for the Government, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay said: “We recognise that there were concerns across the House over the standards system, and also the process by which possible breaches of the Code of Conduct are investigated.

“While sincerely held concerns clearly warrant further attention, the manner in which the Government approved last week's debate conflated them with the response to an individual case.”

He described the behaviour as a “mistake” and said: “The government will now redouble its efforts to engage on a cross party basis, and indeed with you, Mr. Speaker, in the days ahead because we know what we can achieve when we do so.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused Boris Johnson’s Government of “corruption” as he claimed its actions last week were part of a “pattern of behaviour”.

He told the Commons: “When the Prime Minister’s adviser on the Ministerial Code found against the Home Secretary, the Prime Minister kept the Home Secretary and forced out the adviser.

“When the Electoral Commission investigated the Conservative Party, the Prime Minister threatened to shut it down.

“And when the Commissioner for Standards looked into the Prime Minister’s donations, the Prime Minister tried to take her down. Government corruption. There is no other word for it.”

Sir Keir said Mr Johnson seeks to “devalue the rules so they don’t matter to anyone any more and to go after those charged with enforcing the rules, so that breaking the rules has less consequence”.

“That way, politics becomes contaminated, cynicism replaces confidence and trust, the taunt that ‘politicians are all in it for themselves’ becomes accepted wisdom, and with that the Prime Minister hopes to drags us all into the gutter with him.”