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Ian Paisley kept visits secret due to embarrassment about Sri Lanka's human rights, says watchdog

Ian Paisley failed to disclose two family trips to Sri Lanka.
Ian Paisley failed to disclose two family trips to Sri Lanka.

A report has found DUP MP Ian Paisley kept paid-for family trips to Sri Lanka secret because of potential embarrassment over accepting hospitality from a government "accused of serious human rights violations".

The report, carried out by the House of Common's Committee on Standards found that Mr Paisley had committed "serious misconduct" and "brought the house into disrepute".

The Committee recommended that the North Antrim MP be suspended for 30 days starting in September.

Mr Paisley reported himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards after the Daily Telegraph reported that he had took his family on two all-expenses-paid holidays to the island in 2013.

He was accused of accepting up to £100k in hospitality from the Sri Lankan Government, claims which Mr Paisley denied.

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 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 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."

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

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