Members' Interests: MPs flock to island in the sun: Cyprus

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The Independent Online
CYPRUS has an irresistible lure for British politicians. More than 50 have declared sponsored trips to the Mediterranean island in the register of members' interests.

Visits last from a few days to a week or more, and have been to both the Greek and Turkish parts of the island. The highest level of MP interest in the politics of Cyprus occurs in April and again around the end of September, beginning of October; both, according to Cyplon Travel, times of 70F temperatures and sunshine.

Stephen Day, Secretary of the All-Party Group on Cyprus, and Tory MP for Cheadle, maintained that Britain's role as one of the United Nations' guarantee powers in Cyprus ensured the interest of MPs.

'Whether MPs are allied to the Greek or Turkish side politically, Britain has a continuing influence on the place,' he said. Twenty-four Tories and 22 Labour MPs declared visits. Three Ulster Unionists and Margaret Ewing from the SNP also made trips, as did Betty Boothroyd, the Speaker, who had her flight and four nights accommodation paid for by Calypso Hotels in September last year.

James Cann, Labour MP for Ipswich, who went to Cyprus in April 1993, and to Turkey and Cyprus again in May this year, said he had an interest in Middle Eastern affairs and met leading politicans during his visits. His week-long trip in May was paid for by the Turkish government and the government of 'Northern Cyprus', although Mr Cann paid for his wife who accompanied him.

A total of 37 Tory MPs have registered sponsored foreign trips paid for by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Founded in memory of the first post-war West German chancellor, the foundation is the educational arm of Germany's right-of-centre Christian Democratic Union. It brings together conservative politicans from around Europe.

David Lidington, MP for Aylesbury, said he had taken part in one or two meetings a year paid for by the foundation in each of the past three years.

Most had been at the foundation's centre - at the site of Adenauer's old villa at Cadenabbia, on the shores of Lake Como, in northern Italy.

'They are very pleasant surroundings but you spend most of your time sitting in a small room with headphones clamped on your head,' he said.