Belfast Telegraph

General Election 2019

Ian Paisley says BBC spent £400k going 'around the world' in bid to unseat him

Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

DUP MP Ian Paisley accused the BBC of spending £400,000 investigating his conduct in an attempt to "unseat" him.

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Mr Paisley made the comments after successfully retaining his North Antrim seat on Friday morning.

He was approached by the BBC and asked if he was pleased that scandals about overseas trips had not hit his re-election campaign, a clearly angry Mr Paisley said: "To have almost 50% of the constituency support you after the abuse and the allegations that have been made against me, the campaign very ably won after £400,000 spent by the BBC going back and forth around the world trying to unseat me.

"I am very pleased that it didn't work."

The BBC refused to comment on the comments when contacted by the Belfast Telegraph.

Allegations were made in June in a BBC Spotlight investigation over trips Mr Paisley took to the Maldives, one of which it is claimed was paid for by a former minister in the Indian Ocean nation's government.

It was claimed Mr Paisley should have registered the visit with Commons officials. He rejected any wrongdoing saying the holiday was taken in a personal capacity and was not paid for by the Maldivian government, but partly out of his own pocket and partly by a friend.

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Mr Paisley claimed on Friday morning that an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards was not ongoing.

“One thing has to be made very, very clear. The facts of the matter are that there is not an investigation going on as far as I’m aware,” said Mr Paisley.

“All investigation has ceased. Whatever happens now is up to the new parliament and I can face any of these things, as I always do, head on.”

However, DUP leader Arlene Foster said last week that the commissioner was in fact investigating Mr Paisley.

When asked about the discrepancy between his account and his party leader's, Mr Paisley said: "Your legal department - and don’t play the silly boy with me - you know the situation, your legal department has been involved in it, the BBC has been involved in it.

“If the BBC has anything to say about me, send it to parliament and say it. Don’t try and twist and get me to say it for you.”

A spokesperson for the commissioner said that it could not comment on whether an investigation was ongoing into Mr Paisley.

The spokesperson confirmed that any investigation launched during a previous parliament would recommence once the new parliament is returned.

The commissioner cannot investigate complaints about MPs during an election campaign after parliament has been dissolved.

Following a separate inquiry last year, Mr Paisley was suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days for “serious misconduct”.

The watchdog ruled the then North Antrim Westminster candidate breached Commons rules on paid advocacy by writing to the Prime Minister to lobby against a UN resolution on Sri Lanka without disclosing family holidays paid for by their Government in 2013.

He later survived Parliament’s first ever recall petition. A total of 7,099 signed the petition to force a by-election - which was 444 votes off the required 10% threshold to bring about a new poll.

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