Belfast Telegraph

Ian Paisley could lose North Antrim seat if 10% of voters sign Petition of Recall

Ian Paisley could lose his Westminster seat following his proposed 30-day suspension from the House of Commons, according to Parliamentary rules.

The Petition to recall a Member of Parliament introduces a process by which an MP will lose their seat if a petition to recall them is successful.

The rules state that a recall petition can be called after the Speaker of the House of Commons notifies them that an MP has been  barred from the House of Commons for 10 sitting days or 14 calendar days.

Once a Petition Officer has opened a recall petition, it will be open for signing for six weeks. If at least 10% of the electorate in the constituency signs the petition, the MP will lose their seat and a by-election will be triggered. The recalled MP can stand as a candidate at the by-election.

Mr Paisley's North Antrim constituency has an electorate of  75,657. In last year's general election he topped the poll with 20,643 votes. The other parties polled a combined 19,939 votes.

Today's recommendation by the Commons watchdog calls for Mr Paisley to be "suspended from the service of the House for a period of 30 sitting days starting on 4 September 2018."

The suspension would be the longest given to an MP since 1949.

It had been alleged that Mr Paisley did not declare £100k in hospitality from the Sri Lankan government.

A 2017 report in the Daily Telegraph claimed he took his family on two all-expenses-paid holidays to the island in 2013.

The paper said that he had met Sri Lanka officials to discuss possible post-Brexit trade deals.

The report said that although Mr Paisley disputed the Daily Telegraph's claim "that the value was £100,000, by his own calculation it amounted to over £50,000 - and may have been significantly more than that".

Mr Paisley and his family made two visits to Sri Lanka in March/April 2013 and July 2013. He made a further visit to Sri Lanka in November 2013 without his family, but also paid for by the Sri Lankan government, to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

This third solo visit was registered with Parliament, but the first two were not.

The report concluded that "the reason why the third visit was registered and the two earlier ones were not, was that Mr Paisley was conscious of the potential embarrassment that would be caused to him were it to become publicly known that he had accepted very expensive hospitality, for himself and his family, from a foreign government accused of serious human rights violations."

Mr Paisley reported himself to Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Hudson over the claims.

Speaking at the time the North Antrim MP totally denied the allegations, which he said were "devoid of fact or logic" and were "defamatory".

However in a statement released on Wednesday through his solicitor Paul Tweed, Mr Paisley apologised "unreservedly" for failing to disclose the hospitality he received.

"While accepting the decision of the House Standards Committee, he nonetheless continues to take issue with the sensationalised report in the Daily Telegraph. Legal proceedings are being considered," the statement read.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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