MPs broke Commons rules on luxury foreign trips

More than 20 MPs broke Commons rules by failing fully to declare luxury trips paid for by foreign governments, it was claimed today.

The politicians visited famous holiday destinations such as the Maldives, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Mauritius, Gibraltar and Cyprus, according to research by the BBC.

However, on many occasions they failed to mention the hospitality received when tabling questions and participating in Parliamentary debates.

Labour MP Andrew Dismore, a member of the Standards and Privileges Committee, is alleged to have breached the regulations it enforces more than 90 times in relation to annual trips to Cyprus.

Tory MP David Amess is said to have called a debate on the Maldives in 2007, telling the House that his "splendid visit" had given him "an early taste of paradise".

He apparently suggested that the UK Government "could be encouraged to do a little more than is being done at the moment" for the tiny nation.

However, despite tabling 15 questions and leading two debates, at no point did he declare his interest as required, the BBC claimed.

Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox admitted breaching rules twice in asking parliamentary questions after visiting Sri Lanka.

He said one trip from 2007 was initially not recorded properly due to a staffing error, but later added to his register entry.

"I do however recognise that when asking one question in 2008, I should have noted an interest and the Registrar has been informed of this," he added.

Liberal Democrat frontbencher Norman Baker allegedly broke regulations 37 times, leading debates and tabling questions about Tibet.

He travelled to India twice courtesy of the Tibet Society and the Tibet government-in-exile, the BBC said.

Under Commons rules, MPs are not allowed to press for UK government assistance to a place from which they have recently received hospitality. They must register the trip and then declare relevant trips when tabling questions, motions or debates.

In total, the BBC identified some 400 breaches by comparing the overseas visits registered by MPs with their activities in parliament.

MPs highlighted in the probe have denied their behaviour amounted to lobbying on behalf of a foreign power. Many apparently blamed administrative errors, or pointed out that they had declared the interests on numerous other occasions.

Mr Dismore, Mr Amess and Mr Baker were not immediately available for comment when contacted by the Press Association.

The chairman of the Commons Public Administration Select Committee, Tony Wright, told the BBC the alleged failures were "very serious" and "unacceptable".

"If rules are being broken they need to be adhered to and it's as simple as that", he said. "If that means taking some action we should do that."

He went on: "There should be a system in place to control this kind of thing, to stop abuses, and to make sure there's transparency.

"That's what we really need. If that's not working then it ought to and people in charge of that system ought to ensure that it is working."

In a statement, Mr Dismore accused the BBC of misconstruing the rules and failing to understand the situation in Cyprus.

"The Cyprus problem is complex and the various administrations and interests on the island are very separate from each other, as demonstrated by the protracted negotiations between the leaders of the two communities to attempt a reunification settlement," he said.

"The BBC have confused visits undertaken with one Cypriot administration, the Republic of Cyprus parliament in the south, with points raised about others such as the UN administration in the buffer zone or the Turkish administration in the north."

He went on: "I have a large Cypriot community in my constituency for whom the Cyprus issue is of great importance.

"There was no personal advantage to me either financial or in kind from my work on Cyprus or from the study visits.

"All visits were correctly registered with the Registrar of Members Interests within the required timescale.

"When I spoke in the House I made the required declarations of interest at the start of my speeches.

"There is no suggestion of financial impropriety. There is no suggestion of misuse of public funds."

Sir Stuart Bell, a Labour backbencher who sits on the ruling House of Commons Commission, said the claims further tarnished the reputations of MPs.

He described it as "a further error of judgment in our colleagues".

"Twenty of them, which unfortunately means 646 MPs are now tarred with the same brush," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform