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Last updated: 24 March, 2010 - Published 18:10 GMT
 
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Government denies paying British MP's trips
 
Liam Fox meets  President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Liam Fox meets President Mahinda Rajapaksa
A senior Sri Lankan Minister has denied allegations of paying British Parliamentarians travel and hospitality expenses to visit Sri Lanka.

Speaking to journalists in Colombo on Wednesday Minister Maithripala Sirisena said “we totally deny these allegations of spending government funds to sponsor these visits”.

He dismissed allegations of government spending as mere rumours.

British investigation

A BBC investigation into the parliamentary rules by MPs has found out that Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox has broke the rules on two occasions, having visited Sri Lanka five times in the past three years courtesy of its government.

Liam Fox, MP, has failed to declare the hospitality when asking ministers how much UK aid had been given to Sri Lanka.

A BBC investigation looked into which members had registered trips and declared those paid for by foreign governments.

'Must register' the visits

Under British Parliamentary rules, MPs must register such foreign visits within four weeks and must declare a financial interest when tabling questions, motions or bills and when speaking out in the commons.
Dr Fox has visited Sri Lanka in November 2007, on a trip paid for by the Sri Lankan government, but did not register it until February 2008 - outside of the four-week requirement.

Also, the BBC found that Dr Fox visited Sri Lanka four times between 2008-2009 - all paid for by the Sri Lankan government.
On April 30, 2008, he tabled a question about aid for Sri Lanka but did not declare an interest.

Dr Fox said: "I have been involved in attempts to promote peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, since I was a Foreign Office Minister in 1997.During my most recent visit I spoke at a press conference to outline my reasons for being there.”

He says his visit in November 2007 was highlighted in the end of the year audit report.

He added: "All visits have been fully declared on the House of Commons Register of Members' Interests and are therefore public knowledge and entirely legitimate. 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.”

Labour party MP Andrew Love, who visited Sri Lanka in April 2006 and March 2008 courtesy of its government, has asked questions in the parliament related to Sri Lanka, without declaring an interest.

BBC investigation also found out that On 24 May 2006, Mr Love tabled a debate about Sri Lanka without declaring any interest, although he did mention a recent visit.

Mr Love told the BBC that while he may not have met "the letter of the requirements of the code of conduct, I did more than meet the spirit of the code in terms of acting on all occasions in accordance with the public trust placed in me as an elected representative".

 
 
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