AN MP has apologised for failing to register a free luxury holiday his family took as the Standards Commissioner struggled to get answers from him about two earlier free family holidays in Sri Lanka he had not registered.
As Standards commissioner Kathryn Stone investigated two trips in 2013, North Antrim MP Ian Paisley, his wife and two sons, enjoyed a full-board, five-night stay at a resort in the Maldives (shown above) in 2016 which he failed to register.
Ms Stone said the MP should have placed his latest freebie in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
Mr Paisley was finally suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days for “serious misconduct” in failing to declare the 2013 holidays to Sri Lanka.
About the 2016 holiday Ms Stone said: “Although I saw no evidence Mr Paisley had engaged in any activities relating to his parliamentary role during his visit, the circumstances were not analogous to a family holiday which was partly paid for by someone else because of a purely personal relationship.
“I was persuaded that having received complimentary rooms was something which others might reasonably consider to influence Mr Paisley, which made registration a requirement.”
She said the holiday should have been added to the Register of Members’ Financial Interests within 28 days of the end of his holiday.
“On the basis of all the evidence available to me, bearing in mind that I had concluded that the true donor had been a corporate body and not a foreign government, I did not find that Mr Paisley had acted in breach of the rules.”
She said the investigation had taken too long because Mr Paisley focused on rebutting allegations in the media rather than answering her questions.
She added that when Mr Paisley asked for the Registrar’s advice in December 2018, he did not disclose all the relevant information.
“Had he disclosed more detail then about the nature of his relationship with one of the resort’s owners, his contact with that individual before and after his visit to the Maldives, and about other arrangements for his holiday, he would have been advised then to register the hospitality he had received and this matter could have been concluded very much sooner, early in 2019.”
Ms Stone said: “Although this is not the first time Mr Paisley has broken the rules on the registration of overseas visits, he received this hospitality before I had concluded my inquiry into that other matter.”
She added that the MP has acknowledged his new breach of the rules, apologised unreservedly for it, agreed to rectify his omission and apologised for unnecessarily delaying the inquiry.
- Last month Mr Paisley was fined £1,300 by the Electoral Commission over breaches in finance rules related to a party fundraising dinner. The MP also agreed to pay £2,600 to two local councils who gave him the money to buy tables for the dinner held in 2017.
Source: The London Economic
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