Ian Paisley Contents

Appendix 1: Memorandum from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards – Mr Ian Paisley MP

Executive Summary

Mr Ian Paisley MP made three visits to Sri Lanka at the expense of the Sri Lankan Government in 2013. The third visit, from 11 to 15 November 2013, was properly recorded in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. But he did not register the visit he made in March/April 2013, with five members of his family, nor the visit which he made in July 2013 with three members of his family. While it has not been possible to establish the exact value of the hospitality Mr Paisley and his family received in the course of these visits, or the exact dates of the second visit, Mr Paisley estimates that the value of the first visit was over £25,000, and that of the second was over £26,000.

The Daily Telegraph reported in September 2017 that Mr Paisley had failed to disclose these visits and perhaps that he had broken the rule on paid advocacy. Mr Paisley referred himself to my predecessor for investigation. She opened this inquiry, and I have concluded it. My finding is that Mr Paisley:

The Investigation

1.On 13 September 2017 my predecessor began an inquiry based on allegations which had appeared in the Daily Telegraph newspaper the previous week. Mr Paisley had referred the matter himself for the Commissioner to investigate. The central allegation was that Mr Paisley had acted in breach of the House’s rules on the disclosure of financial interests and possibly in breach of the rule against paid advocacy. I took up post on 1 January 2018, and have completed the inquiry. This Memorandum sets out the evidence and the conclusions I have drawn.

2.The inquiry has focused on two visits Mr Paisley made to Sri Lanka, with his family, in 2013. These visits were hosted and financed by the Sri Lankan government. The then rules of the House required Members to register the name of the donor; the value of the hospitality; the destination, date and purpose of such visits in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Mr Paisley did not consider the newspaper report reflected accurately the nature and duration of the visits, and much of our correspondence has concerned those points.

3.I have also considered whether Mr Paisley should have made a declaration of financial interest when writing to the Prime Minister on 19 March 2014 about a matter concerning Sri Lanka; and whether there was evidence that he had acted in a way which might reasonably be construed as paid advocacy (lobbying for reward or consideration).

4.I am submitting this Memorandum to the Committee because the evidence I have found does not allow me to conclude the inquiry through the rectification procedure, for which provision is made in House of Commons’ Standing Order No 150. The rectification procedure may be used where a Member has breached the rules on registration, declaration and the use of House-provided resources, subject to certain criteria. It does not allow for rectification of a breach of the paid advocacy rule.

5.In cases of failures to register, I may conclude an inquiry without reference to the Committee if, in my opinion, the interest is “minor” or the failure is “inadvertent”. In such cases, the Member is expected to have acknowledged and apologised for their breach of the rules and a late registration might also be required. A failure to make a declaration of interest might be rectified by way of an apology to the House on a point of order. These steps are intended to rectify a breach. It is not my role either to sanction Members, nor to make recommendations to the Committee about sanctions or otherwise.

6.Five years after the visits, it has not been possible to establish a precise value for the hospitality Mr Paisley and his family received from the Sri Lankan government in 2013. After much correspondence, Mr Paisley has provided estimates of very approximately £25,000 per visit. The assumptions on which Mr Paisley has based his estimates are not obviously inconsistent with the evidence provided by the Daily Telegraph. In the absence of other evidence, and bearing in mind that the threshold for registration in 2013 was one per cent of the parliamentary salary, that is approximately £660, it was clear that these visits ought to have been registered. I decided that further work to test Mr Paisley’s estimates was unlikely to add value to my inquiry.

7.The House requires Members to “fulfil conscientiously” their registration responsibilities. Donations made by foreign governments can be particularly sensitive. I do not consider hospitality of £25,000 or thereabouts per visit to be a minor financial interest. Mr Paisley has provided some explanation of how the failure to register occurred. That explanation does not fully account for the omission to register the March/April 2013 visit nor does it explain why he did not notice either omission until they were drawn to his attention in 2017.

8.My inquiry has shown, and Mr Paisley has accepted, that he should have registered in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests the two visits he and his family made to Sri Lanka at the expense of the Sri Lankan government in 2013. My inquiry has also shown that, when writing to the Prime Minister on 19 March 2014 about a proposed UN Resolution concerning Sri Lanka, Mr Paisley should have declared the financial benefits he and his family had received from the Sri Lankan government in the previous twelve months. . These omissions were in breach of paragraph 13 of the 2012 Code of Conduct for Members.

9.Mr Paisley accepted at a very early stage that the rules of the House had required him to register these interests. At a much later stage in the inquiry, he made considerable efforts to provide supporting evidence: he showed me his personal diary; a copy of one of his bank statements; his passport and other documents, and he commissioned a management consultant to research how much it might have cost a regular tourist to take similar family visits. He arranged for those calculations to be based on the dates originally planned, as per the evidence provided by the Daily Telegraph, despite his own reservations about the dates of travel. However, this does not entirely mitigate his delays earlier in the inquiry. He did not provide any detailed calculation of the possible value of the visits until June 2018. This inquiry could have been concluded months ago if Mr Paisley had provided his evidence sooner.

10.My inquiry has also established that, having accepted financial benefits from the Sri Lankan government during 2013 Mr Paisley was prohibited from lobbying for the exclusive benefit of the Sri Lankan government for a year. He wrote to the Prime Minister asking him not to support a UN motion to “internationalize” the dispute within Sri Lanka within four months of having last visited Sri Lanka at the expense of the Sri Lankan government, and within eight months of his family’s July 2013 visit. That was a breach of the rule against paid advocacy.

11.Mr Paisley offered in September 2017 to register the hospitality his family had received from the Sri Lankan government in 2013. Had the failure to register and declare these interests been suitable for rectification, I would have asked Mr Paisley to make an apology to the House by way of a point of order and the late entries would have been annotated in the Register to show that they were made following the rectification procedure. For the reasons explained above, I have concluded that the matter is more serious than that. The Committee may wish to consider whether registration would be appropriate now, two Parliaments later. The Committee may also wish to consider whether some other action is appropriate in respect of these breaches of the rules on registration and declaration.

12.My finding that Mr Paisley has breached the rule against paid advocacy cannot be resolved through the rectification procedure.

Key dates

13.Before describing the events in more detail, I hope it will assist the Committee if I set out briefly the key dates.

Date

Event

30 March to 5 April 2013

Mr Paisley and his family visit Sri Lanka

July 2013

Mr Paisley and his family visit Sri Lanka

18 November 2013

Mr Paisley registers a visit to Sri Lanka from 11 to 15 November 2013

19 March 2014

Mr Paisley writes to the Prime Minister about UK Government policy on Sri Lanka

8 September 2017

Daily Telegraph article appears

Mr Paisley tweets a denial

Mr Paisley refers himself to the Commissioner

13 September 2017

Inquiry initiated

28 September 2017

Mr Paisley responds to the allegations

24 October 2017

Commissioner obtains Daily Telegraph’s evidence

30 October 2017

Mr Paisley provides information about his recollection of the dates and value of the visits; and provides copy of letter of 19 March 2014

13 November 2017

Commissioner invites Mr Paisley to comment on Daily Telegraph evidence

27 November 2017

Mr Paisley comments on the evidence

19 December 2017

Commissioner asks Mr Paisley for clarification, a fuller explanation of one point; and for supporting evidence. Commissioner encloses a letter, which she asks Mr Paisley to send on to the Sri Lankan High Commission

1 January 2018

Kathryn Stone takes up post

9 January 2018

Mr Paisley hand-delivers letter to Sri Lankan High Commissioner

19 January 2018

Mr Paisley replies to the Commissioner’s letter of 19 December 2017

29 March 2018

Mr Paisley hand-delivers reply from Sri Lankan High Commissioner

17 April 2018

Commissioner interviews Mr Paisley

18 April 2018

Commissioner writes to Mr Paisley confirming the evidence and further information requested on 17 April

16 May 2018

Commissioner chases reply and reminds Mr Paisley of the need to have evidence to support his account

23 May 2018

Mr Paisley hand-delivers his response to Commissioner to enable her to view original documents

30 May 2018

Commissioner shares her initial review of the evidence with Mr Paisley

19 June 2018

Mr Paisley provides additional information and evidence, including an estimate of the value of each trip to Sri Lanka prepared by a management consultant, and tested by an accountant

20 June 2018

Commissioner shares Registrar’s advice with Mr Paisley and seeks information about a fresh matter

22 June 2018

Mr Paisley provides evidence about the credentials of the management consultant; and some further information about the basis for the estimates

27 June 2018

Meeting to share draft Memorandum for fact checking

The allegation

14.On 8 September 2017 an article appeared in the Daily Telegraph newspaper under the headline “The MP, the £100k gifts and the Brexit trade deal”. The article alleged that Mr Ian Paisley MP had accepted “two all-expenses paid trips from the Sri Lankan government’ in March and July 2013, which he had not registered in the House of Commons’ Register of Members’ Financial Interests.26 The article outlined the nature of the hospitality said to have been received, which included business-class flights; first-class hotels; internal helicopter flights; and entrance to various visitor attractions. On the first occasion, Mr Paisley was said to have been accompanied by his wife and four children; on the second by his wife and two of his children. The article also made reference to Mr Paisley having a role in “helping to secure a post-Brexit trade deal.”

15.Also on 8 September 2017, Mr Paisley telephoned and emailed the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards about the newspaper report, saying “I wish to refer myself for an investigation into these claims to your offices.” Mr Paisley tweeted a statement issued by his solicitor “My client totally denies the defamatory inferences arising from the article in today’s Daily Telegraph including those relating to his registration obligations as an MP. He has now referred this matter, and a full explanation, to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.”27

16.Mr Paisley had, in 2013, registered one visit to Sri Lanka, also funded by the Sri Lankan government. The date of that visit was 11–15 November 2013. Mr Paisley registered this interest in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests on 18 November 2013.

17.On 13 September 2017 my predecessor began an inquiry. She said that she would consider whether the rules of the House had required the registration and/or declaration of these two trips allegedly taken by Mr Paisley during 2013; and whether he had complied with the advocacy rules in connection with those trips.

Relevant rules of the House

The Code of Conduct for Members

18.The House of Commons approved a slightly amended Code of Conduct for Members on 12 March 2012. Paragraph 11 of the 2012 Code said:

No Member shall act as a paid advocate in any proceeding of the House.

19.Paragraph 13 of the Code said:

Members shall fulfil conscientiously the requirements of the House in respect of the registration of interests in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. They shall always be open and frank in drawing attention to any relevant interest in any proceeding of the House or its Committees, and in any communications with Ministers, Members, public officials or public office holders.

20.Both of these rules appear in the 2015 Code of Conduct, which has applied since May 2015.

Registration

21.The main purpose of the Register of Members’ Financial Interests is “to provide information of any pecuniary interest or other material benefit which a Member receives which might reasonably be thought by others to influence his or her action, speeches or votes in Parliament, or actions taken in his or her capacity as a Member of Parliament”.

22.After the publication of the first Register of a Parliament, it is the responsibility of Members to notify changes in their registrable interests within four weeks. In 2013 paragraphs 19–71 of the 2009 Guide to the Rules relating to the conduct of Members (the Guide) described the various registration categories. Category 6 concerns overseas visits. The definition was

With certain specified exceptions, overseas visits made by the Member or the Member’s spouse or partner relating to or in any way arising out of Membership of the House where the cost of the visit exceeds one per cent of the current parliamentary salary and was not wholly borne by the Member or by United Kingdom public funds.”

23.The parliamentary salary was £65,738 between April 2012 and April 2013; and £66,396 between April 2013 and April 2014. The threshold for registration in 2013 was, therefore, approximately £660.

24.Paragraph 46 of the Guide specified the information Members were required to provide to the Registrar. These included the name and address of the donor; the amount of the donation and the destination, date and purpose of the visit. Paragraph 47 of the Guide listed certain exemptions from the requirement to register.

Declaration

25.Paragraphs 72 to 88 of the 2009 Guide concerned the declaration of Members’ interests. The requirement to make a declaration (ad hoc disclosure) of interests is wider than the requirement to list interests in the Register. Members are expected to declare certain interests even if they do not appear in the Register.

26.Paragraph 73 explained the declaration requirements in more detail:

The rule relating to the declaration of interest is broader in scope than the rules relating to the registration of interests in three important respects. As well as current interests, Members are required to declare both relevant past interest and relevant interests which they may be expecting to have. In practice, only interests held in the recent past, i.e. those current within the previous twelve months, need normally be considered for declaration. Expected future interests, on the other hand, may be more significant. […] In deciding when a possible future benefit is sufficiently tangible to necessitate declaration, the key word in the rule which the Member must bear in mind is “expecting”. Where a Member’s plans or degree of involvement in a project have passed beyond vague hopes and aspirations and have reached the stage where there is a reasonable expectation that a financial benefit will accrue, then a declaration should be made. Members are also required to declare relevant indirect interests, for instance those of a spouse or partner, and also non-registrable interests of a financial nature where these are affected by the proceedings in question … .”

27.Paragraph 74 of the Guide explained the test of relevance:

“ … .The basic test of relevance should be the same for declaration as it is for registration of an interest; namely, that a financial interest should be declared if it might reasonably be thought by others to influence the speech, representation or communication in question. A declaration should be brief but should make specific reference to the nature of the Member’s interest.

28.Paragraph 76 of the Guide said that:

The House has endorsed the following advice on the occasions when such a declaration of interest should be made: ‘no difficulty should arise in any proceeding of the House or its Committees in which the Member has an opportunity to speak … ‘”

29.Paragraph 86 explained further:

The requirement to declare a relevant interest at the appropriate time covers almost every aspect of a Member’s parliamentary duties extending to correspondence and meetings with Ministers and public officials. Frankness with colleagues is also important. [ … .] Above all it should be disclosed when a Member is dealing with Ministers of the Crown and civil servants, and his obligation becomes of paramount importance when a foreign government is involved either directly or indirectly.”

30.There are some occasions when a Member is exempted from making a declaration. This was explained in paragraph 87 of the Guide to the Rules:

In its application of the 1974 Resolution the House has always recognised that there are certain proceedings where declaration of interest is impracticable e.g. during oral Questions or when asking a question in response to ministerial statement on a matter of public policy or supplementary to an Urgent Question. (The Member asking the Question should, however, declare an interest; see paragraphs 78 to 81.) However, Members are advised to declare any relevant interest when such a declaration does not unduly impede the business of the House, for example in relation to a request for a debate made in response to a Business Question or statement.”

Paid advocacy

31.On 6 November 1995 the House agreed a Resolution (amended on 14 May 2002) prohibiting paid advocacy. The 2009 Guide set out the detailed rules on the disclosure of Members’ interests and about advocacy (also described as “lobbying for reward or consideration”).

32.Paragraph 96(1) sets out the relevant part of the advocacy rule:

The Committee on Standards and Privileges has provided the following Guidelines to assist Member in applying the rule:

(i) Parliamentary proceedings: When a Member is taking part in any parliamentary proceeding or making any approach to a Minister or servant of the Crown, advocacy is prohibited which seeks to confer benefit exclusively upon a body (or individual) outside Parliament, from which the Member has received, is receiving, or expects to receive a financial benefit, or upon any registrable client of such a body (or individual). Otherwise a Member may speak freely on matters which relate to the affairs and interests of a body (or individual) from which he or she receives a financial benefit, provided the benefit is properly registered and declared.

33.Paragraph 99(4) said, in respect of one-off benefits

The rule applies to “one-off” registrable benefits, both visits and gifts, from the day upon which the interest was acquired until one year after it is registered.

34.Paragraph 99(5) continued

Family benefits: The rule includes relevant payments to a Member’s family, but any payment to a member of the family of any Member which arises out of the family member’s own occupation is not regarded as a benefit for the purposes of the Resolution, although it may be declarable.

35.Paragraph 100(d) of the 2009 Guide provided Members with advice in respect of foreign visits funded by others. It says:

Members are reminded that when accepting foreign visits they should be mindful of the reputation of the House. However, the knowledge obtained by Members on such visits can often be of value to the House as a whole. While it is desirable that Members should be able to use that knowledge in debate in the House there is a point where promoting the interests , of, e.g. a foreign Government from which hospitality has been received, crosses the line between informed debate and lobbying. Members may not, for example, advocate in debate increased United Kingdom financial assistance to a Government from which they have recently received hospitality. Nor may a Member advocate any other measure for the exclusive benefit of the host Government. Subject to this constraint Members could, having declared their interest, raise matters relating to their experiences in the country either in a speech or by initiating any other proceeding. Similarly they could raise matters relating to the problems of the country generally, or make use of any local insight they have obtained into regional problems (e.g. the situation in the Middle East or in South East Asia, economic or social problems or an external threat) or information they have obtained on local developments or initiatives.”

The inquiry

36.On 28 September 2017, Mr Paisley told my predecessor that he was “content to register this matter, late as it would be, from two Parliaments ago. But [he could not] substantiate the erroneous amount quoted in the newspaper article.” He said that he believed “the cost would be a fifth of that amount.” He said he would “try to extrapolate a value over the next couple of weeks”. Mr Paisley also said

“ … . My only Westminster assistant had been headhunted by an international company and was working his notice period for me between 31 March and 1 July, when he began his new job. He was in charge of the recruitment of his replacement, who did not start in Westminster until mid-August. Neither work for me anymore.

The process of registration was clearly established with my key worker, who had been with me since shortly after I was first elected. It was straightforward. After overseas visits he had a responsibility to ascertain the costs and to draft me a submission that I would check and then email on to [the Registrar] in the registration office. I registered the information that the key worker assembled by email. Any amendments would come back by email or phone call and would be agreed by that process. The information was gathered by the staff member, and I would sign it off.

I have checked with my former member of staff. He tells me that I did ask for this to be done at the time. Apparently, he had gathered some of the information and had left instructions for the new staffer to complete this work. Clearly the task was not completed. It is also clear that the summer recess got into the mix, and the matter fell down and off the list of priorities. I accept my responsibility in this, but I believe this change of staffing arrangements helps to explain what would otherwise have been a simple matter. After the summer of 2013, I had other serious personal family issues to deal with.”28

37.The Commissioner obtained from the Daily Telegraph the evidence on which they had based the article of 8 September 2017.29 In the meantime, she had written to Mr Paisley to tell him that it was “evident from the information [he had] provided so far, that the visits should both have been registered in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.” The Commissioner asked Mr Paisley to provide the precise dates of his two visits to Sri Lanka and to explain the purpose of the visits. (This information would have been required for inclusion in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, if Mr Paisley had registered the hospitality when it was received.) She also asked Mr Paisley to consider whether there had been any occasions when paragraph 86 of the Guide would have necessitated a declaration of interest on his part.

38.On 30 October 2017 Mr Paisley wrote to the Commissioner.30 He said that he believed he had left for Sri Lanka on 29 March 2013 and returned seven days later. He said that he believed the value of the flights was approximately £5,000, quoting economy flights on Sri Lanka Airlines at approximately £800 per person. Mr Paisley said that the dates for his July trip were “less certain”. He believed that he had travelled out on 2 July and was back in the UK by 8 July 2013. He estimated the flight costs at approximately £4,000. Mr Paisley said his visits had been to enable him “to gain a wider knowledge of the political and social situation on the ground in Sri Lanka” although he had no doubt had some free time. His family had accompanied him but had not attended his official meetings. He also said that “suggestions that the meetings were about general or specific trade deals are total nonsense.

39.Mr Paisley said that he was sure that his “knowledge and experience of post-conflict resolution added a dimension to [the Sri Lankan government’s] desire to properly inform me about issues there. I do not believe that the government did this as a gift to me solely because it liked me. That would be preposterous. However, [ … .] if others want to inform me during times that I have set aside for my family and can accommodate my family, I will certainly ensure that my family travels with me rather than being separated longer than necessary. I certainly will not give all of my time to such causes at the expense of my family time.” Mr Paisley said that he had “received no gift or support - financial or otherwise - in any way or kind from the Sri Lankan government as a result of my interest in the country”.

40.Mr Paisley said that he had conducted a file search for correspondence concerning Sri Lanka at the time. He enclosed a letter, dated 19 March 2014, addressed to the then Prime Minister.31 In that letter, Mr Paisley expressed “alarm with the decision by HMG to internationalize the internal affairs of Sri Lanka, and its post conflict process.” Mr Paisley referred to a trip he planned to take to Sri Lanka later that year. He did not refer to the hospitality he, and his family, had received from the Sri Lankan government within the previous 12 months.

41.My predecessor subsequently invited Mr Paisley to comment on the evidence sent to her by the Daily Telegraph, including an email to a Sri Lankan official referring to their “oil requirements”. Mr Paisley replied to the Commissioner on 27 November 2017.32 He reiterated that he did not believe he had broken the rules on paid advocacy or “done anything that has an impact on my activities as a Member of Parliament.”

42.Mr Paisley said that he had no reason to think the dates he had given on 28 September were wrong. He had been back in his constituency on 5 April 2013 because he had attended a family celebration; and “according to [his] diary” he had been back from the second visit by 8/9 July 2013. He said that either the material submitted by the Daily Telegraph was inaccurate or the itinerary and travel times changed after the bookings were first made.

43.Mr Paisley said categorically that he “had never brokered any oil deal for any gentleman or anyone else and [he had] never met him or his colleagues in Africa”. He said “I was more than happy to introduce two businesses that I knew to the Sri Lankan authorities. That suggestion was made and was not taken up and was made out of courtesy on my part and probably refused out of courtesy on their part.”

44.Mr Paisley said that the Daily Telegraph’s evidence did not align with the published article and that the figures in the emails they had provided amounted to about £42,313.60. He said that the claim that the value of the first visit was £23,157.60 and the second was £19,156 was “a major exaggeration”. He said that the itinerary for the first visit “bears no resemblance to the visit that I took”.

45.On 19 December 2017 my predecessor asked Mr Paisley to forward to the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka a letter asking if the Sri Lankan government could provide the information that Mr Paisley would have needed to provide to the Registrar of Members’ Financial Interests in 2013.33 She said that she was sending her request via Mr Paisley so that he could see the request and confirm direct to the High Commission that he was content for the information to be provided. The Commissioner also asked Mr Paisley to provide some evidence to support the statements made in his earlier correspondence, and for the basis of his calculations of the value of the hospitality he had received.

46.I took up post on 1 January 2018. On 19 January 2018 Mr Paisley wrote to me.34 He said he had hand-delivered my predecessor’s letter to the Sri Lankan High Commissioner on 9 January 2018. He told me that he had been in his constituency on 6 April 2013 and that his diary entry for that date confirmed this.35 He said he “did not disagree” that he had returned home sometime early on 5 April 2013. Mr Paisley said again that he was less clear about the dates of his second visit to Sri Lanka in 2013. He said he departed on 1 July and his diary was “blank” for that week. From memory, the itinerary had “chopped and changed” but he was home [in Northern Ireland] for the 12 July parades. He said his diary showed he had been in New York City on 13 July and he would not have arrived home in Northern Ireland on 11 or 12 July and then departed the same day for New York. He said he would have returned from Sri Lanka on either 8 or 9 July 2013. Mr Paisley said that “For a whole host of other reasons I try not to tie down my scheduling in such a precise manner as I do not want too many people getting hold of my daily engagements and movements for security reasons and that is even more pronounced when I travel abroad where I have even less control over such matters as personal security.

47.In respect of the email exchange about oil contracts. Mr Paisley said “No conflict of interest occurred; no contact information was exchanged; no trading occurred and no travel arrangements resulted from [his] emails. My “significant arrangements” comment is my view quite clear. I am making my contact aware of what I think is significant, obviously he had a different view of its significance and choose to ignore it.

48.On 2 March 2018 the Sri Lankan High Commissioner apologised for the delay in responding to my predecessor’s letter.36 On 29 March 2018, I received her substantive reply.37 She said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sri Lanka had not provided any records or statements, and that she assumed that this was because of the length of time that had elapsed since Mr Paisley’s visits.

49.On 17 April 2018 I interviewed Mr Paisley. I wrote to him the following day and summarised the points of agreement, which were:38

50.I explained that Mr Paisley’s recollections and assertions were not in themselves sufficient to lead me to question the evidence I had received from the Daily Telegraph. I asked him to provide the evidence on which he had based his previous estimates; details of the costs he and his family had met during the visits; and a clear statement of how many helicopter flights he recalled. I also asked Mr Paisley to consider whether the rules of the House would have necessitated a declaration of interest when he wrote to the Prime Minister on 19 March 2014. I did not consider his previous explanation that too much time had elapsed by then to be acceptable or in accordance with the rules.

51.Mr Paisley told me that the emails he had exchanged about a potential oil purchase had been a ‘casual’ offer to put officials in Sri Lanka in touch with people he had met in the oil industry and the offer was not followed up notwithstanding a later email in which Mr Paisley had suggested co-ordinating trips to Africa.

52.On 23 May 2018 Mr Paisley hand-delivered a letter to me.39 He brought to my office photocopies of his 2013 diary and showed me the original so that I could verify the veracity of the copies. He also showed me a copy of his bank statement dated 31 July 2013; his passport and a timed but undated “selfie” of him taken with a third party at a bonfire, which Mr Paisley said placed him in Northern Ireland on 11 July 2013. This evidence is described in more detail in paragraphs 65–73 below.

53.Mr Paisley said he could not be certain of the value of the hospitality he had received but it was significantly less than the £100,000 the Daily Telegraph had quoted. Mr Paisley confirmed that he agreed the dates of the first trip his family had taken. He said however that he did not recognise the itinerary suggested by the Telegraph for his July visit. He believed that it was shorter than suggested by the newspaper.40 He said that he had now uncovered evidence that suggested he had not gone to Sri Lanka again until “at the very earliest [on the] evening [of] 5 July”. He said he had tried to find something which would place him at a bonfire in his constituency on 11 July. The “selfie” of Mr Paisley and another man was not dated and appeared to have been taken at 22.13 hours. Mr Paisley said he believed he must have travelled home between 9 and 10 July 2013. He could not say with any certainty how many helicopter trips he had taken but said the veracity of the Daily Telegraph’s account was now in doubt because of the mismatch between his and their dates for the July 2013 visit.

54.Mr Paisley told me that he had not needed to make a declaration in his letter to the Prime Minister of 19 March 2014 because he had travelled with members of the UK government to Sri Lanka for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November 2013, he had met the Prime Minister there, and the Prime Minister would have been aware of his interest in the country.

55.Mr Paisley re-iterated that no oil deals had been made. The “officials in other companies referred to government contacts in the countries [they] were discussing whom [he] had met on [his] travels and was willing to share openly with them.

56.On 30 May 2018 I wrote to Mr Paisley.41 I confirmed my understanding that he would try to establish whether the person who had taken the photo at the bonfire could provide any evidence to show that it was taken on 11 July 2013; and that he would now provide me with as accurate an estimate as he could of the value of the hospitality provided by the Sri Lankan government during 2013.

57.I also explained to Mr Paisley some difficulties I had identified with the evidence he had left with me on 23 May 2018. Although his bank statement showed several transactions between 2 and 5 July 2013, the dates shown appeared to be the dates when the transactions were processed through the banking system and not necessarily the dates on which the purchases were made. I did not, therefore, consider they were sufficient to place Mr Paisley in the UK between 1 and 5 July 2013. The transactions between 8 and 11 July 2013 appeared to be automated transfers which also did not place Mr Paisley in the UK between those dates. I told Mr Paisley that I recognised now that it might not be possible for him to provide exact figures but it would be helpful if when sending me the estimates I had requested, he would say clearly what was and was not included and why. I asked Mr Paisley to consider whether there was any other evidence he wished me to consider before I reached a conclusion. I said I hoped that when he next wrote to me he would be able to provide the information about the dates, nature and value of the visits to facilitate late registration.

58.On 11 June 2018 Mr Paisley emailed me.42 He said that he wanted to make clear that his visit to CHOGM in November 2013 had been registered in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and would have been public information in March 2014.

59.On 12 June 2018 I obtained advice from the Registrar of Members’ Financial Interests about whether Mr Paisley had been required to make a declaration of interest when writing to the then Prime Minister on 19 March 2014.43 She said that she would have been guided by paragraph 86 of the Guide and would have advised that a declaration was required. She also said that she would have advised Mr Paisley to consider a declaration in relation to any expected hospitality, as she noted that he also told the Prime Minister that he was expecting to visit again later in 2014.

60.On 13 June 2018 Mr Paisley wrote to me again.44 He said that his bank had told him that the Oyster-card transaction shown on his 31 July 2013 bank statement would have been made on 3 July, placing him in London on that date. He enclosed a copy of an email from the person who had taken the “selfie”. He gave a more detailed explanation than he had previously given of the purpose of his visits to Sri Lanka at the expense of the Sri Lankan government. Mr Paisley said he had asked a management consultant to provide an estimate of the value of the hospitality he had received from the Sri Lankan government and that the figures had been scrutinised by an accountant. He said that the estimates were based on:

61.Mr Paisley estimated that the value of the first visit his family made to Sri Lanka would have been approximately £25,230; and the second would have been approximately £26,211.

62.On 21 June 2018 Mr Paisley emailed me some evidence about the credentials of the management consultant who had made the calculations for him and about the basis of those calculations.45

63.On 25 June 2018 he emailed me about the visit to Sri Lanka which had been planned for the Easter recess in 2014. He said it had later been cancelled.46 It was to have been funded by a private donor. He said he did not think he should have made a declaration about the visit when writing to the Prime Minister because he had already registered the visit to CHOGM and the Prime Minister was aware of his (Mr Paisley’s) interest in Sri Lanka. He added “In the event, the visit did not proceed, so I would have been declaring something that did not happen.” He, nonetheless, accepted that “in future any correspondence should contain, where relevant, a reference to the Register and [his] interests”. Mr Paisley concluded by saying that, at the time he wrote to the Prime Minister, the planned visit was “nothing more than another potential visit that could occur rather than a hard and fast commitment, with exact timetabling. All I had done at the point of writing my letter was indicated a willingness and availability to attend.”

64.I met Mr Paisley to discuss the Memorandum on 27 June and on 3 July.

Evidence from the Daily Telegraph

65.The Daily Telegraph sent my predecessor a bundle of evidence on 24 October 2017.47 Among the material they provided were:

66.“ … . At dinner we discussed a potential oil purchase. I have two significant arrangements with national oil suppliers in either Oman or Nigeria I understand from our conversation you require a regular supply and are currently changing your filters on the refinery to take other than Iranian oil. If you can let me know quantity and quality specifications of oil requirements I can certainly make this happen quickly. [Name] and I have a meeting in Africa in a week or so with the individual we discussed and we could progress this immediately. Let me know your requirements, as you know this is the most lucrative project you could be involved in and government to government will attract the most discount … .”

Evidence from Mr Ian Paisley MP

67.Mr Paisley sent with his letter of 30 October 2017 a copy of the letter he had sent to the then Prime Minister about UK government policy toward Sri Lanka. He asked the Government not to support a UN resolution concerning Sri Lanka’s post-conflict process. In that letter, Mr Paisley referred to a trip he planned to take to Sri Lanka later in the year. He did not say explicitly that this trip was to be funded by a third party.

68.After Mr Paisley had seen the material provided by the Daily Telegraph, he provided (with his letter of 27 November 2017) a copy of an email exchange between the Daily Telegraph and Official A.48 Mr Paisley referred in his letter to evidence contained in his diary. He did not provide a copy of the relevant pages of his diary at that time. He left copies of these documents with me.

69.When I met Mr Paisley on 17 April 2018, I explained that his “recollections and assertions [were] not in themselves sufficient to lead me to discount the evidence I had received from the Daily Telegraph.” Following our discussion of what might constitute evidence, on 23 May 2018 Mr Paisley showed me his 2013 week-per-view diary; a print-out of a photograph which he said had been taken on 11 July 2013; a bank statement dated 31 July 2013; and his passport bearing a USA visa stamp dated 13 July 2013.49

70.Mr Paisley drew to my attention the entries in his diary for 30 March to 6 April 2013. These had the annotation “SRIL” on each of the days between 30 March and 5 April, a family event, with a time and location was recorded on 6 April. Mr Paisley also drew to my attention the entries for the first half of July 2013. Each of the days between 1 and 11 July were annotated with a diagonal line. The top of the page for 5–7 July (one of two pages for the week commencing 1–7 July) was written “Sri Lanka”. There was no entry for 12 July. Each of the days between 13 and 21 July was annotated “NY”.

71.Mr Paisley pointed out to me several transactions on his bank statement, which he said placed him in the UK between 2 and 5 July 2013, and between 10 and 15 July 2013. The copy of the photograph he provided was undated and appeared to have been taken at 22:13 hours. Mr Paisley showed me the visa in his passport for his first visit to Sri Lanka in 2013. That passport did not contain a visa for his July 2013 visit. Mr Paisley did not dispute that he had visited Sri Lanka then.

72.On 30 May 2018 I wrote to Mr Paisley about the evidence he had provided.50 I said that I did not think the evidence contained in his bank statements placed him in the UK on the dates he had suggested. The dates on his bank statement appeared to be the dates on which transactions had been processed through the banking system rather than the dates the purchases were made. I also noted that the transactions appeared to have been made using two different bank cards on the same account. The 31 July bank statement also showed cash withdrawals at Westminster ATM after the date on which he had entered the USA and before his return.

73.On 13 June 2018 Mr Paisley gave me a letter in which he provided an estimate for the value of each of the trips he and his family had taken to Sri Lanka at the expense of the Sri Lankan government. He also provided a copy of an email from the management consultant who had prepared the estimate for him, with an email from an accountant who had “challenged and tested” the estimates. The management consultant costed the March/April 2013 trip at £25,230 and the July 2013 trip at £26,211. The combined value of the two trips was £51,441.

74.Mr Paisley also provided a print-out of an exchange he had had with his bank.51 This confirmed my understanding of the bank statements; that is, that purchases were likely to have been made a couple of days earlier than the dates shown on the bank statements. Mr Paisley also enclosed a recent email from the person shown in the copy of the photograph Mr Paisley had given me. Mr Paisley had redacted the name of the person.

75.At my request, Mr Paisley subsequently provided a copy of an email he had received from the management consultant setting out the consultant’s understanding of the brief for compiling the estimates (paragraph 56 above) and setting out the consultant’s credentials.52 The email said that” although it is noted that there is some discrepancy in the dates of the second trip and that there seems to be evidence that it was shorter than suggested. However, you have been adamant that the analysis should be robust and ‘offering you no advantage’ in the analysis, i.e. we should err on the side of more expensive, and for the maximum suggested length of stay”.

Statement of facts

76.The following facts are agreed.

Analysis

Registration of financial interests

77.Despite his solicitor’s statement on 8 September 2017 that Mr Paisley “totally denies the defamatory inferences arising from the article in today’s Daily Telegraph including those relating to his registration obligations as an MP”, Mr Paisley has accepted from a very early stage in this inquiry that he should have registered the hospitality he received in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests in 2013. It has been harder to establish exactly what should have been included in each register entry and it is for this reason that my predecessor and I have sought evidence from Mr Paisley about the dates of his visits and the nature of the hospitality he and his family enjoyed.

78.The 2012 Code of Conduct for Members stated

Members shall fulfil conscientiously the requirements of the House in respect of the registration of interests in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. They shall always be open and frank in drawing attention to any relevant interest in any proceeding of the House or its Committees, and in any communications with Ministers, Members, public officials or public office holders.

79.Mr Paisley has given an account of what happened during the handover from one member of his staff to another and how this may have contributed to his omission to register these trips. I have not sought evidence from his former members of staff because I have no reason to doubt Mr Paisley’s account of what happened and, in any case, the Code is very clear that the onus lies on the Member to fulfil conscientiously their responsibilities. Mr Paisley has acknowledged that, whatever staffing issues there were, he was responsible for ensuring that his financial interests were registered.

80.However, I should note that Mr Paisley’s explanation is, if accepted as mitigation, relevant only to the omission to register the July 2013 hospitality. By Mr Paisley’s account, the departing member of staff worked for him until 1 July 2013. The March/April 2013 visit should have been registered by 2 May 2013, some two months before the change of staff occurred. Mr Paisley has not offered any explanation for why he did not notice the omission of these two visits from his register entry before the start of this inquiry. He did not notice the omission when he next registered a visit - also to Sri Lanka and funded by the Sri Lankan Government- in November 2013. Although the relevant Register entry suggests that the visit was shorter and Mr Paisley was not accompanied by family members, it might reasonably have been expected to trigger some recollection of his recent visits to the country. Taking all this into account, I do not think Mr Paisley’s failure to register the hospitality within the time-limit prescribed by the House could reasonably be described as inadvertent.

81.Given that Mr Paisley acknowledged the need to put matters right at an early stage, offering to make a late registration in his first letter to my predecessor on 28 September 2017, it is disappointing that it has taken a further nine months for him to have provided sufficient evidence for me to conclude my inquiry. Mr Paisley has not always responded promptly to the enquiries made of him and he first provided supporting evidence only when I explained to him, in terms, that his recollections and assertions were not sufficient to rebut the evidence sent to me by the Daily Telegraph. However, since that time, Mr Paisley has sought out other sources and information to support his recollections.

82.Mr Paisley initially suggested that the value of the hospitality he had received was approximately a fifth of the amount suggested, that is approximately £20,000. He said, on 28 September 2017, that he would provide an estimate “over the next couple of weeks.” I appreciate that the passage of five years has made it difficult for Mr Paisley to evidence the details which he should have obtained and registered in 2013. I also appreciate his pragmatism now, in submitting estimates based on the dates originally suggested, despite his own reservations about them. However, his own estimates put the value of the hospitality he and his family received from the Sri Lankan government somewhere in excess of £51,441. The description of the evidence in respect of the second visit provided by the Daily Telegraph as a “major exaggeration” has not been borne out. Mr Paisley’s own estimate for that visit significantly exceeds the £19,156 that he said their evidence suggested.

83.House of Commons’ Standing Order No 150 allows me to conclude an inquiry concerning registration of interests by way of the rectification procedure if, in my opinion, the interest involved is minor, or the failure was inadvertent. For the reasons explained above, I do not consider those criteria to be met and I must refer the matter to the Committee on Standards.

Declaration of financial interests

84.The Registrar told me that, if Mr Paisley had sought her advice, she would have advised him to make a declaration of interest when writing to the Prime Minister on 19 March 2014.53 I accept this advice and agree that Mr Paisley should have declared that he had a financial interest when approaching the Prime Minister to express concern about a matter concerning Sri Lanka. The hospitality he had received from the Sri Lankan government during 2013 constituted a financial interest which “might reasonably be thought by others to influence the speech, representation or communication in question.54

85.Mr Paisley - who has now been a Member for eight years - does not appear to have understood the requirements of the House in this respect. When asked for his opinion on whether he ought to have made a declaration, Mr Paisley first said; “sufficient time had elapsed” and the Prime Minister knew of Mr Paisley’s interest anyway. As evidence for that, Mr Paisley referred to having met the Prime Minister in Sri Lanka during CHOGM in November 2013 and to the registration of that visit in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. This was a misunderstanding of the rules in two respects.

86.The rules on declaration are additional and complementary to the rules on registration. The fact of having made a register entry does not remove the requirement for a Member to make a declaration if a financial interest meets the relevance test on a specific occasion.

87.As well as current interests Members are expected to declare both relevant past interests and relevant interests which they may be expecting to have. “In practice, interests held in the past 12 months need normally be considered for declaration. Expected future interests should be declared when a Member’s plans have passed beyond vague hopes and aspirations and reached the stage where a reasonable expectation of financial benefit will accrue … 55 In March 2014 Mr Paisley’s three visits to Sri Lanka during 2013 fell within the 12-month period for declaration of a past interest.

88.The Prime Minister may have remembered meeting Mr Paisley while attending CHOGM in Sri Lanka the previous November, but it does not follow that the Prime Minister would have been aware that Mr Paisley and his family had visited the country at the expense of the Sri Lankan government. Nor did it relieve Mr Paisley of his responsibility to make a declaration which made “specific reference to the nature of [his] interest.”

89.Having seen the Registrar’s advice on the declaration of interests, Mr Paisley said again that he had “made a formal declaration (sic) of a visit on 11–15 November 2013.”56 I assume that this was a reference to his registration of that visit in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Mr Paisley said that he had written to the Prime Minister “about matters to do with the Commonwealth and Sri Lanka peace process, matters I have had a long term fixed view on. In reply the Minister even acknowledged that he was aware of my interests in the country”. That may be true but it does not mean Mr Paisley did not need to declare his past financial relationship with the Sri Lankan government in accordance with the rules of the House.

90.Mr Paisley also said that if he had made a declaration in March 2014 in respect of the visit he planned to make to Sri Lanka in April 2014, “I would have been declaring something that did not happen”. This appears to be a further misunderstanding of the rules regarding declaration, which require Members to declare “expected future interests”. Mr Paisley could not have known on 19 March 2014 that the planned visit would be cancelled at the last minute and he should, therefore, have given proper consideration to whether a declaration was required. However, that is a moot point, given that he ended his email by saying that the visit had not, at the time of writing to the Prime Minister, been firmed up. I do not see any merit in trying to establish now whether the plans had reached a point where they had crystallised beyond hope to expectation, given that Mr Paisley has also said that the host for the planned visit was a private individual rather than the Sri Lankan government. I do not find that Mr Paisley was required to declare this cancelled visit in the 19 March 2014 letter.

91.The Daily Telegraph’s article of 8 September 2017 made reference to Mr Paisley having spoken in a debate on 8 January 2013, saying that he opposed calls for HM the Queen to avoid CHOGM in November 2013. This alleged that he might have been required to make a declaration of interest.57 The first evidence of the plans for him and his family to visit at the end of March 2013, appear to have been developed during March 2013. He would not, in those circumstances, have been expected to declare that as a future interest.

Advocacy

92.Mr Paisley agrees that he and his family received substantial benefits from the government of Sri Lanka when he accepted hospitality from that government in 2013. That is not in dispute. Once he had accepted that hospitality, Mr Paisley was prohibited from lobbying for the exclusive benefit of the Sri Lankan government. He wrote to the Prime Minister on 19 March 2014 urging him not to support the UN motion which “internationalised” the dispute within Sri Lanka. That letter amounted to paid advocacy, putting Mr Paisley in breach of paragraph 11 of the 2012 Code of Conduct for Members.

93.The Daily Telegraph article of 8 September 2017 made reference to Mr Paisley offering to “help [Sri Lanka] broker an oil deal, sayinghe had significant arrangements with national oil suppliers” in Oman and Nigeria.”” The evidence the Daily Telegraph shared with me included a copy of an email exchange between Mr Paisley and that official. Mr Paisley told me that the exchange came to nothing; that he did not meet with the official in Africa as had been suggested; nor had he arranged any oil deals. In the absence of further evidence, I did not consider I would be justified in probing this matter further as part of this inquiry.

Comments from Mr Ian Paisley MP

94.In accordance with the procedures agreed by the Standards Committee, I invited Mr Paisley to comment on the factual accuracy of a draft of this report. That draft included the above analysis. In addition to sending some detailed textual comments, Mr Paisley apologised for failing to register “two official trips” that he took in 2013. He repeated that the Daily Telegraph had defamed him in its article. Mr Paisley said he did not accept that he had broken the House’s rule on paid advocacy. He said that his letter to the Prime Minister would not have conferred an “exclusive benefit” to Sri Lanka and that the beneficiary would have been the UK. He said that my finding represented “a harsh judgement”. Mr Paisley did not dispute the facts in my report but he added that the Oyster card top up occurred on 3 July, which he believed was important in respect of travel dates. He did not agree that he had delayed responding to enquiries from myself and my predecessor and so prolonged the investigation. I explained the report to Mr Paisley in person on 3 July. I provided him with my analysis of the time he had taken to reply to letters from this office, which shows the delays totalling 23 days.58

Conclusion

95.Mr Paisley referred himself for investigation to my predecessor in September last year. She undertook to consider whether the rules of the House had required the registration and/or declaration of the two visits to Sri Lanka which Mr Paisley had made with his family in 2013, and whether he had complied with the advocacy rules in respect of those visits. I have completed this investigation.

96.I have found that Mr Paisley has:

97.These two visits to Sri Lanka provided a very substantial personal benefit to Mr Paisley and his family. I find it surprising that such an experienced MP did not ask himself whether it was proper to accept such benefits from a foreign government. I also find it surprising that he did not realise that, if accepted, these benefits would call into question his impartiality when he next spoke about the affairs of that government.

98.The article in the Daily Telegraph said Mr Paisley offered to put the Sri Lankan government in touch with business contacts in relation to a possible oil deal, and that he said he had “significant arrangements” with national oil suppliers in Oman and Nigeria. While this might seem surprising, since Mr Paisley has registered no relevant financial interests, Mr Paisley has said that he was simply passing on business contacts. I make no finding in relation to this offer.

4 July 2018

Kathryn Stone OBE

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards


26 WE1

27 WE2 & WE3

28 WE5

29 WE8

30 WE9

31 WE10

32 WE13

33 WE15 & WE16

34 WE17

35 Mr Paisley did not enclose a copy of this extract with his letter

36 WE20

37 WE21

38 WE22

39 WE24

40 In his email of 2 July 2018, Mr Paisley said that the top up for his Oyster card (for travel in the London area) had to take place on 3 July. He added that “for the calculation of costs it makes no difference”.

41 WE25

42 WE28

43 WE29

44 WE32

45 WE34

46 WE35

47 WE8

48 WE13

49 WE24

50 WE25

51 WE32

52 WE34

53 WE29

54 Paragraph 74 of the Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members

55 Paragraph 73 of the then Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members

56 WE33

57 WE1

58 WE39




Published: 18 July 2018