Northern Ireland news

Westminster standards watchdog resumes probes after election suspension

There were heated scenes when Ian Paisley was quizzed about his party leader's claims that a Westminster watchdog was probing his overseas trips

THE Westminster standards watchdog has confirmed that any investigation suspended during the election campaign has resumed with the reconvening of parliament earlier this week.

DUP leader Arlene Foster recently revealed that Ian Paisley's luxury family holidays to the Maldives are being probed by Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone.

There were heated exchanges between the North Antrim MP and a BBC reporter at last week's election count when Mr Paisley was quizzed about his leader's claim.

The DUP MP said the standards commissioner had ceased all investigations ahead of the general election.

While Mr Paisley's claim is technically correct, a spokeswoman for the Westminster watchdog has confirmed that its probes resume when MPs return after the election.

If Mrs Foster's claim about her colleague is accurate then it appears likely that the investigation into the North Antrim MP's trips to the Indian Ocean archipelago in 2014 and 2016 has begun again.

Details around Mr Paisley's Maldives holidays were revealed in two separate BBC Spotlight programmes, broadcast in December 2018 and June this year.

The former Stormont junior minister was last year suspended from Westminster for an unprecedented 30 sitting days following a previous probe into undeclared luxury holidays to Sri Lanka in 2013.

His suspension for "serious misconduct" led to the first recall petition in Westminster's history, which fell 444 signatures short of the 10,000 constituents' signatures necessary to trigger a by-election.

Earlier this month, Mrs Foster said the Spotlight programme raised "serious issues" and they would be dealt with by party officers.

"As you know the parliamentary authorities are investigating that and will have to deal with all those issues," she said.

Under strict rules, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards cannot confirm or deny whether an investigation into an MP's conduct is being carried out.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news