Ian Paisley suspended for 30 days after breaching anti-sleaze rules with holiday paid for by Sri Lanka

Posted On: 
18th July 2018

DUP MP Ian Paisley has been suspended from the Commons for 30 days after failing to declare a holiday paid for by the Sri Lankan government worth tens of thousands of pounds.

The DUP MP said he had "apologised profusely" for failing to declare the five-figure trips paid for by the Sri Lankan government

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards found that the North Antrim MP made three visits to Sri Lanka in 2013, two of which were not registered with Commons authorities under anti-sleaze rules.

He went on to write a letter to the then-Prime Minister David Cameron about a United Nations resolution on the country - which stands accused of a string of human rights violations - in which he again failed to declare that he had received the paid-for trips. The overseas visits included seven helicopter flights and hospitality for the MP's family.

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Unveiling her findings, Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone said: "These two visits to Sri Lanka provided a very substantial personal benefit to Mr Paisley and his family. I find it surprising that such an experienced MP did not ask himself whether it was proper to accept such benefits from a foreign government.

"I also find it surprising that he did not realise that, if accepted, these benefits would call into question his impartiality when he next spoke about the affairs of that government."

The Commissioner found that the DUP MP's omissions had breached three Commons rules, citing a ban on "paid advocacy", a failure to declare "personal benefit and hospitality" in the letter to Mr Cameron, and a failure to register the two 2013 trips within a 28-day time limit.

MPs on the cross-party Committee on Standards have now recommended that the DUP MP "be suspended from the service of the House for a period of 30 sitting days starting on 4 September 2018".

They have also ordered him to update Commons records to make clear that he received financial benefits from the Sri Lankan government.

The Committee said: "Mr Paisley’s failure to register the hospitality he received from the Sri Lankan government is made more serious by the scale of that hospitality. While he has 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.

"This massively exceeded the threshold for registration, which at that time was £660. The expenditure on the two visits included that on business-class air travel, accommodation at first-class hotels, helicopter trips and visits to tourist attractions for Mr Paisley and his wider family. Mr Paisley may have taken part in meeting with government ministers and others, but for hisaccompanying family members these two visits were clearly holidays at significant cost."

Mr Paisley - who dismissed the claims about his trip as "devoid of fact or logic" when first reported by the Daily Telegraph last year - apologised for failing to register the two trips, but has disputed the findings on paid advocacy and described the watchdog's report as a "harsh judgement".

He told the Committee: "I have a good record of registration, both before and since. In recognition of my mistake, I have apologised profusely for this. I am deeply embarrassed by it and fully understand that it has an impact on my reputation. Members of the House are held to the highest standards and a failure, such as this, reflects on both the Member concerned and the wider House."

His suspension is also a blow for Theresa May as it means he will probably miss any meaningful vote on her Brexit deal - reducing were wafer-thin working majority by one.