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Conservative MP Leo Docherty (L) has been reported to the UK parliamentary standards watchdog  over his meeting with Saudi King Salman.
Conservative MP Leo Docherty (L) has been reported to the UK parliamentary standards watchdog  over his meeting with Saudi King Salman.

Tory MPs Accused of Perks for Questions Over Saudi Visit

The Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake says “It’s bad enough seeing the government’s constant failure to condemn Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record. But now we’re seeing a growing band of Tory MPs enjoying free trips courtesy of the Saudi regime”

Tory MPs Accused of Perks for Questions Over Saudi Visit

Conservative MPs have accepted nearly £100,000 in luxury hotel stays, business class flights and hospitality from Saudi Arabia this year, prompting a complaint to the parliament’s standards watchdog for a potential breach of the rules on declaring financial interests.
The latest figures from the Register of Members’ Interests show that 13 Conservative MPs, including the influential former chair of Conservative Middle East Council (CMEC) Leo Docherty, have accepted a total of £87,467 in hospitality from the Saudi government this year, prompting concerns that MPs are being used to launder the reputation of the government in Riyadh, Middle East Eye revealed.
One Labour MP, Liam Byrne, also accepted a donation worth £6,722, bringing the Saudi lobbying bill to a total of £94,189 for cross-party MPs this year.
The hospitality included business-class flights, luxury hotel stays, fine dining and meetings with King Mohammed Bin Salman and senior officials. The register shows the figure is almost a threefold increase on Saudi government spending on hospitality from 2016.
One group visit came weeks before Docherty and other backbench MPs questioned Theresa May’s government over defense co-operation with the kingdom and urged the sale of Eurofighter Typhoon jets from UK arms giant BAE Systems to Saudi Arabia, prompting allegations of “perks for questions” from campaigners.
The rise in Saudi Arabia’s lobbying efforts come as the kingdom’s relationship with the UK is coming under increasing scrutiny in Westminster after former Tory cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell this week accused the UK of being “dangerously complicit” in a Saudi policy towards Yemen that is “promoting a famine and the collective punishment of an entire population”.

  Intensified Lobbying
According to the Register of Members’ Interests, Saudi Arabia has intensified its lobbying efforts since the start of the Yemen war in early 2015, and Conservative MPs have accepted more than £130,000 in hospitality since the start of the conflict, which has claimed more than 10,000 lives.
Docherty led a delegation of four backbench MPs to meet with King Salman at the al-Salam palace in a six-day trip in September. According to the Register of Members’ Interests each MP recorded donations of £7,800 from the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including business-class flights, luxury accommodation and unspecified food, transport and hospitality, for the visit to the kingdom.
The Commons code of conduct states that MPs must disclose any financial interest or benefit they have received, directly or indirectly, if speaking during relevant debates in the house or submitting questions.
But, an investigation by MEE has revealed that Docherty, a former captain in the British Army who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, did not declare his visit to Saudi Arabia when, the next month, he submitted two written questions regarding arms exports to Saudi Arabia and in defense of the ministry of defense’s support for a close relationship with the kingdom.
Docherty’s failure to disclose the trip has prompted Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake to submit a formal complaint to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and to call for the Tory backbencher to face investigation.
In the letter to Kathryn Hudson, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, this week Brake wrote: “Mr Docherty failed to draw attention to his Register of Members’ Interests and his visit to Saudi Arabia when he asked these questions and I am therefore concerned that Mr Docherty has broken the Code of Conduct.”
During the visit to Saudi Arabia, Docherty and his fellow MPs met with members of the Shura Council, an unelected body appointed by the king.
Saudi Arabia has been ruled by the Saud family since 1932 and the government restricts almost all political rights and civil liberties, according to the Freedom House monitoring group.
The use of torture and the death penalty remains common and authorities severely restrict rights to freedom of expression and assembly, often imprisoning peaceful critics, according to Amnesty International.
“It’s bad enough seeing the government’s constant failure to condemn Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record, but now we’re seeing a growing band of Tory MPs enjoying free trips courtesy of the Saudi regime,” Brake told MEE.
He added: “The job of an MP is to scrutinize the government and their relationship with foreign regimes. Being best buddies with those same regimes is hardly likely to lead to forensic scrutiny of the UK government’s actions.”

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