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DUP's Ian Paisley faces 30 days Commons suspension over Sri Lankan holiday - watchdog report in full

Ian Paisley
Ian Paisley
The DUP's Ian Paisley

DUP MP Ian Paisley is set to be suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days for his failure to register the hospitality he received on a trip to Sri Lanka.

It comes after a report from the House's Committee on Standards which found that Mr Paisley's actions "brought the house into disrepute" and that he had committed "serious misconduct".

The Committee has recommended that the North Antrim MP 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.

"No further comment will be made until Mr Paisley has addressed the House on Thursday."

The House of Commons code of conduct states that MPs must declare any visit to a destination outside the UK which "relates in any way to their membership of the house or to their parliamentary or political activities" and which costs more than £300, unless they have paid for it themselves or out of parliamentary or party funds.

The rules state that MPs do not have to register family holidays, so long as they are "wholly unconnected with membership of the house or with the member's parliamentary or political activities".

Entries in the register of members' interests should cover the cost of travel, hotels, meals, hospitality and car hire, and repeat visits should be registered if their combined value comes to more than £300.

Mr Paisley's register entries include a trade mission to Sri Lanka in 2012, as well as a second trip to the island that year as part of a cross-party parliamentary delegation examining post-war reconstruction, funded to the tune of £3,200 by the Colombo government. There is no mention of the alleged trips in 2013.

The DUP have said that the findings of the Committee will now be considered by party officers.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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