MPs will today vote on a parliamentary watchdog’s decision to suspend Ian Paisley over failing to declare family holidays paid for by a foreign government.
Following two lavish holidays at the expense of the Sri Lankan government in 2013, Mr Paisley then wrote to David Cameron, lobbying the prime minister to argue against a probe into alleged human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.
It is expected that the House of Commons standards committee’s recommendation of a 30-day suspension from Parliament will be ratified.
This will result in Mr Paisley being absent from the Commons for 30 days (when Parliament would normally sit) beginning on September 4. The suspension period would therefore end in mid-November. He would not be paid during his absence with the loss of salary amounting to around £15,000.
Due to the severity of the offence, once the suspension has been formally confirmed, Commons Speaker John Bercow must write to the chief electoral officer in Northern Ireland, who must then organise a public petition to allow North Antrim voters to decide if they wish to have a by-election.
If 10% of the electorate sign the petition (7,737 people), Mr Paisley will lose his seat, although he would be entitled to stand in the by-election.
A penitent Mr Paisley made a public apology in the Commons last Thursday.
The MP said he accepted the damning outcome of the investigation and offered “the profoundest of all apologies”.
Senior members of the DUP held a private meeting at the weekend to discuss Mr Paisley’s future, but the outcome of that meeting is not known and the party has declined to issue a statement on the matter.
Following calls for Mr Paisley to resign, East Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson said his party colleague had been “punished enough” over the rule breach.
“I believe he has admitted he was wrong, he didn’t try to hide it, he has stood up and publicly apologised for it and he has been punished very severely,” Mr Wilson told BBC NI’s Sunday Politics show.
On Monday, Sinn Fein’s Philip McGuigan said the DUP should compel Mr Paisley to resign if he does not resign voluntarily, and made a number of allegations regarding the Sri Lankan government.
Mr McGuigan questioned whether the DUP thought it was acceptable that “one of its MPs lobbied in defence of a regime that carried out mass murder, war crimes and gross human rights abuses?”