Westminster watchdog launches Ian Paisley probe in wake of Sri Lankan holiday revelations

Ian Paisley jnr tweeted a photograph of him with the Sri Lankan High Commissioner Amari Wijewardene

WESTMINSTER'S standards watchdog has launched an investigation into Ian Paisley's failure to declare overseas trips paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

The DUP MP referred himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner last week when it emerged that he had accepted two all-expenses paid holidays to the Indian Ocean island in 2013 for himself and his family.

After considering the details of Mr Paisley's case, standards watchdog Kathyrn Hudson has concluded that it requires further probing.

The investigation will centre on the MP's requirement to register any interests.

When the allegations emerged last week, Mr Paisley's register entries included a trade mission to Sri Lanka in 2012, as well as a second trip to the island that year as part of a cross-party parliamentary delegation examining post-war reconstruction, funded to the tune of £3,200 by the Colombo government.

There is no mention of the alleged trips in 2013.

The Westminster 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, 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".

Mr Paisley's solicitor said last week that the MP had provided Ms Hudson with a "full explanation".

It had been reported by the Daily Telegraph that the DUP founder's son accepted holidays worth £100,000 from Sri Lanka.

His solicitor, Paul Tweed, said "defamatory inferences" had arisen from the original article in which the allegations were first aired.

Once the standards watchdog has completed her probe, she reports to Westminster's standards committee, which has the power to recommend sanctions.

In instances where a complaint is upheld, the sanctions imposed can vary from an apology to fellow MPs to suspension from service at Westminster.

Last week Mr Paisley posted a picture of himself alongside the Sri Lankan high commissioner, with the caption: “With Sri Lanka high commissioner to discuss NI-Sri Lanka trade deal after Brexit.”

Two days after the meeting in Westminster, the North Antrim MP posted a picture of himself alongside Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, with whom he discussed "our trade agreements post Brexit".

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