Ian Paisley jnr missed vote over military strikes against Syria due to Africa trip that made him £7,500
A fresh row between the DUP and TUV has erupted over a commercial trip by Ian Paisley jnr to Uganda when the Syria vote was being taken in the House of Commons.
The House was dramatically recalled in July during the recess to vote on a Government proposal allowing it to plan military strikes on Syria. DUP MPs voted with Labour against the Government and the motion was defeated.
TUV leader Jim Allister has published details from the Westminster register of interests showing that, on that very day, the North Antrim MP was on the business trip to Africa, for which he received £7,500 for 21 hours worked. That is the equivalent of £357.14 per hour worked, plus expenses.
Mr Allister stood unsuccessfully against Mr Paisley for the North Antrim seat – which he now represents as an MLA – in the 2010 General Election.
He said Mr Paisley's declaration showed that "North Antrim was left without a voice and a vote in this crucial debate because the MP was on a £5,000 trip paid for by a foreign bank, from which he received £7,500 for 21 hours work. I'll leave it to the people of North Antrim to make their own judgment."
Last night Mr Paisley hit back. He said he had a pairing arrangement with an MP who supported the Government under which neither of them voted.
"Parliament was in recess when the Syrian vote was called and I was on my way to Uganda. When our leader in Parliament and our spokesman on defence got the opportunity to speak it was made very clear that no other member would be allowed to speak, so I could not have contributed to the debate," he said.
He added: "My side had plenty of spare votes so, even if I had not been paired, the outcome would not have been affected."
Mr Paisley was working for EBISA, a London-based subsidiary of Ecobank. Ecobank is a French financial institution which trades mainly in West Africa. Asked what he had done and his reason for going, Mr Paisley pleaded commercial confidence, but pointed out that he had declared the trip and made no secret of it.
He said: "The House of Commons would be a very dull place if every MP was a robotic professional politician whose outside interests were null and void.
"It makes us better politicians if we have these outside interests and I welcome the fact that you have to register what you are doing. I have nothing to hide on this, but I don't have to reveal professional activities."
He accused Mr Allister of posing as "Mr Morality" and trying to distract from accusations DUP leader Peter Robinson had levelled at him at Stormont.
Peter Robinson and Jim Allister clashed when Mr Robinson accused Mr Allister over the sale of land to a Catholic. Mr Allister's wife Ruth benefited from the will. Mr Allister clashed with Ian Paisley jnr when the two ran for North Antrim in the 2010 General Election. Mr Paisley published details of Mr Allister's legal earnings while an MEP, sparking a libel action.
Liam Clarke: Ian Paisley jnr's deep interest in African affairs