Nadir 'funded trips by Friends' MP pressed over Nadir links: Tim Kelsey reports on a Tory being urged to reconsider his position

SIR IVAN Lawrence, Tory MP for Burton, has been asked to reconsider his position as chair of the parliamentary inquiry into party funding because he accepted expenses-paid trips to northern Cyprus.

A prominent member of the Parliamentary Friends of Northern Cyprus, an all-party group campaigning for formal recognition of the breakaway Turkish state on the island, to which Sir Ivan belongs, said he now believed that the group was part-funded by Asil Nadir.

The Independent has learnt that Nadir underwrote the accommodation expenses for MPs on at least one recent fact-finding mission to the north.

Andrew Faulds, Labour MP for Warley East, who is vice-chairman of the group and led the most recent visit in April, shortly before Nadir fled from Britain, said: 'What I suspect is that he has been funding the trips.' But he denied that he or any of the 11 parliamentarians with him on the expenses-paid trip were aware of any involvement by Nadir.

Among the MPs was Sir Ivan, who is chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee currently examining the funding of political parties. He was not available yesterday for comment. He made trips in 1985 and 1988, and has been an active campaigner for recognition of the self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

In an Early Day Motion, tabled yesterday by the Labour MP Alan Meale, Sir Ivan was called upon to 'seriously reconsider his position as chair'.

During the visit in April, which ended two days before Nadir arrived from Britain, the group stayed at the Jasmine Court Hotel, which is owned by Nadir. Sources in northern Cyprus have said that he did not charge the local government for the accommodation. Mr Faulds said he did not know that the hotel was owned by Nadir. He also denied he was among four unidentified MPs who raised Nadir's case with the Attorney General.

There are 131 members of the Parliamentary Friends, all of whom pay a membership fee of pounds 5. It is among the most important lobbies for Turkish Cypriot interests in the West. Mr Faulds was among 44 MPs who signed an Early Day Motion earlier this year pressing the Foreign Secretary to meet Rauf Denktash, president of the illegal republic.

Resat Caglar, unofficial representative of Turkish Cyprus in London, said yesterday that trips arranged for the organisation were funded by the Turkish Cypriot government. The trip in April followed a visit last September, led by the Tory MP, Peter Fry, the group's treasurer. Mr Caglar also denied that MPs who have houses on the island, either bought them or arranged the purchases through the group.