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Monday 15 October 2018

€56,000 free holidays probe sees MP Paisley fighting to save career

DUP MP Ian Paisley
DUP MP Ian Paisley

The DUP's Ian Paisley begged his constituents to retain confidence in him during an emotional apology in the House of Commons for a major breach of UK parliamentary rules.

The North Antrim MP has faced calls to quit and the prospect of a by-election after a parliamentary watchdog recommended he be suspended from the Commons for 30 days for failing to register two family holidays worth £50,000 (€56,000) funded by the Sri Lankan government.

Mr Paisley said it was with "profound personal regret and deep personal embarrassment" that he had to make a statement as he acknowledged he failed to declare and register the trips.

However, he denied he had any "ulterior motive for that genuine mistake" in 2013, adding that he accepted his "total failure" and offered another unreserved apology.

His voice cracked with emotion as he told the Commons: "I say sorry and apologise for the failings that were identified in the Standards Committee report."

Misconduct

Mr Paisley said his constituents had given him "unwavering support" since 2010, adding: "I hope they will continue to have that confidence in me in the future."

The Commons Standards Committee outlined the sanction for Mr Paisley, son of late DUP founder the Rev Ian Paisley, saying he had committed "serious misconduct" and his actions "were of a nature to bring the House of Commons into disrepute".

The report said the cost of the hospitality may have been "significantly more" than Mr Paisley's £50,000 (€56,000) estimate, with the holidays including business-class air travel, accommodation at first-class hotels and more for him and his wider family.

The trips included meeting with Sri Lankan governmental figures. The threshold for registering such hospitality in 2013 was around £660 (€737).

In March 2014, Mr Paisley lobbied against a proposed United Nations resolution to investigate human rights abuse allegations aimed at Sri Lanka, with the committee noting that the financial benefits were not declared in his letter to then prime minister David Cameron.

Mr Paisley said he was disappointed that he could not persuade the committee about the strength of his arguments and mitigation, including paid advocacy, adding that he accepted the report although he said he did "regret" the sanctions.

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