Spain, Taiwan and the Middle East: Here's why three Edinburgh MPs benefited from £9,600 worth of free foreign trips

Three Edinburgh MPs have benefited from more than £9,600 worth of free foreign trips since the 2017 General Election.

Friday, 19th October 2018, 5:09 pm
Updated Friday, 19th October 2018, 5:17 pm
Three Edinburgh MPs have benefited from foreign trips in the year since the 2017 General Election. Pic: Shutterstock

It comes as it emerged that Members of Parliament collectively signed up for more than £2 million of free overseas trips in the last two years.

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More than half of these trips were paid for by foreign governments and Saudi Arabia spent more than any other, according to the Parliament's expenses register.

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Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and Hong Kong contributed to nearly half of the £1,105,490 worth of travel covered by foreign governments, offering free flights, hotels and meals to their guests.

Here are some more details of the trips taken by your local Edinburgh MPs and why they went on them. None of these trips involved the use of UK taxpayer money.

Ian Murray, Labour, Edinburgh South

One trip to Taiwan - £5,282

Speaking today, Mr Murray said the trip was organised by the All party Parliamentary Group for Taiwan and that he took up the offer as an interested member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

He added: "The delegation met the president, senior government members, charities, businesses, non-governmental organisations and academics to discuss a wide range of pertinent issues from the deteriorating relationship with mainland China, the ongoing sensitivities around the South China seas, the instability of North Korea, the changing regional relations, trade, and the close economic, cultural and social ties with the U.K. These delegations are an integral element of doing the job of international relations."

Joanna Cherry, SNP, Edinburgh South West

One trip to Spain - £890

Ms Cherry said: “In October last year I was invited by Diplocat, the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia, to join other Members of the UK Parliament including SNP members, Liberal Democrat and Plaid Cymru as part of a cross-party delegation of present and former Parliamentarians and Government ministers led by former Slovenian Foreign Affairs Minister, Dimitrij Rupel, that was invited to observe the referendum in Catalonia."

Christine Jardine, Lib Dem, Edinburgh West

One trip to China - £2,267

Ms Jardine said she took the trip, paid for through the British Council, in her capacity as foreign affairs spokesperson and because it was an opportunity to improve relations between Scotland and China, a major growing market.

Specifically, she felt it was a great opportunity to make contacts in China to improve trade links with businesses in Edinburgh (while giving consideration to human rights), given the recent introduction of direct flights to Beijing from Edinburgh Airport. Her own constituency is also home to the Chinese consulate in Scotland.

She added: "It's incumbent on me as an MP for Edinburgh West to take an opportunity to benefit the constituency."

One trip to Israel/Palestinian territories - £1,235

Also travelling in her capacity as foreign affairs spokesperson, Ms Jardine said the visit was about gaining a better understanding of the current situation in this conflict zone. The trip, which included visits to refugee camps, was paid for by the Council for Arab-British Understanding.

She said: "I believe that one of the driving principles of British foreign policy should be finding a peaceful two state solution which protects security to Israel and which enables the state of Palestine to be established."

Deidre Brock, SNP, Edinburgh North and Leith

No trips recorded.

Tommy Sheppard, SNP, Edinburgh East

No trips recorded

The details of the overseas trips emerged through the BBC's own analysis of the Parliament's expenses register.

What are the rules?

Organisations and governments regularly invite politicians on all-expenses paid visits overseas. These are often related to an MP's role in an international organisation or part of a one-off fact finding delegation, all of which form a legitimate part of their role as Parliamentarians.

The visits include those which have to be declared to Parliament by MPs. The register of interests does not include ministerial costs or trips taken as part of delegations including Nato and the Council of Europe.

MPs must register all trips that are valued more than £600.