Sunday 22 October 2017

Paisley has a 'full explanation' for £100,000 trips to Sri Lanka

Denial: DUP MP Ian Paisley. Picture: PA
Denial: DUP MP Ian Paisley. Picture: PA

Michael McHugh

DUP MP Ian Paisley says he has provided "a full explanation" to a parliamentary watchdog over a newspaper report that he did not declare trips paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

The 'Daily Telegraph' reported that the party founder's son accepted two holidays to the Indian Ocean island in 2013 for him and his family.

But Mr Paisley Jr "totally denies defamatory inferences" in the newspaper report alleging he failed to declare £100,000 (€110,000) in hospitality from the Sri Lankan government, his solicitor said.

The 'Daily Telegraph' alleged that the North Antrim had met Sri Lankan officials to discuss possible post-Bexit trade deals with the United Kingdom.

The DUP representative took to social media to declare the article "devoid of fact or logic".

He also announced intentions to refer himself to the parliamentary commissioner for standards and to consult his lawyer.

A statement was later issued on behalf of the politician by a lawyer which said: "My client totally denies the defamatory inferences arising from the article in today's 'Daily Telegraph', including those relating to his registration obligations as an MP.

"He has now referred this matter, and a full explanation, to the parliamentary commissioner for standards."

Mr Paisley refused to address the controversy yesterday when he visited Wexford to speak at the Kennedy Summer School. He said he had been advised by his lawyers not to comment.

Mr Paisley is one of 10 pro-Brexit DUP MPs helping to prop up Theresa May's Tory administration after her snap election left her with no overall majority.

He posted a picture this week on a social networking site of himself meeting Sri Lankan High Commissioner Amari Wijewardene "to discuss NI-Sri Lanka trade deal after Brexit".

Two days later, he tweeted a picture of himself with International Trade Secretary Liam Fox "discussing our trade agreements post Brexit".

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 cost more than £300 (€330), 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, as long as they are "wholly unconnected with membership of the House or with the member's parliamentary or political activities".

Duncan Hames, policy director at Transparency International UK, said: "These are very serious allegations, and the parliamentary standards commissioner should make investigating them a top priority."

Irish Independent

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