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MP denies 'foreign deals' claims

A Tory MP has referred himself to the parliamentary standards watchdog after it was reported that he was exploiting foreign contacts to set up business deals.

Mark Pritchard denied the "hurtful and malicious" claims and said he had asked the Parliamentary Commission for Standards to investigate the matter.

The Daily Telegraph reported that he claimed he could use his "network" to set up meetings with politicians in countries where he had parliamentary connections.

The newspaper claimed Mr Pritchard, a member of the all-party parliamentary group for Albania, told an undercover reporter posing as a businessman that he should invest £10 million in a group of boutique hotels in the country.

According to the newspaper, he claimed to have links to officials in the country including the mayor, prime minister and the speaker.

The paper claims he was set to profit from the prospective investment.

The Daily Telegraph said Mr Pritchard, MP for Wrekin, Shropshire, had denied breaching the MPs' code of conduct.

The code states: "I nformation which Members receive in confidence in the course of their parliamentary duties should be used only in connection with those duties. Such information must never be used for the purpose of financial gain."

Mr Pritchard said he was taking legal advice about the Daily Telegraph's report.

"The allegations made by the Telegraph are false - and I deny their claims," he said.

"They have selected quotes out of context to fit their desired story, which is both hurtful and malicious and seeking to damage me.

"This is not the first time the Telegraph have made false claims about me for which I have subsequently and successfully sued them for libel. I cannot comment further as I am consulting libel lawyers. I have asked the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to investigate the matter".

A Labour Party spokeswoman said: "It is right that Mr Pritchard has referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

"It is essential that the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards urgently investigate to ascertain whether or not the House of Commons Code of Conduct has been upheld in principle and practice.

"Every passing scandal and further investigation only goes to reinforce why Ed Miliband was right earlier this year to call for new rules and new limits on MP's outside earnings.

"The perception that some MPs are only in it for what they can get, not for what they can give, merely serves to further undermine Parliament."

The standards commissioner's office said it had so far received no referrals in relation to Mr Pritchard.

If a self-referral is received from the MP, the commissioner would have to consult the House of Commons Standards and Privileges Committee before deciding whether to launch an inquiry.

Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman declined to comment on the allegations against Mr Pritchard.

"I think this is now being investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards," said the spokesman.

He added: "Parliament has its rules and procedures and it's important that they are followed."

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