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Ian Paisley says his return to Westminster 'couldn't have been timed better'

Jane Witherspoon

Reporter:

Jane Witherspoon

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley returned to his seat in the House of Commons last week after serving out the longest suspension given to an MP since at least 1949.

Mr Paisley told the Guardian this week that it was: “Good to be back in Parliament.”

He was suspended for 30 sitting days from September 4, after failing to declare £100k in hospitality from the Sri Lankan government.

The suspension was issued as the House's Committee on Standards found that Mr Paisley's actions "brought the house into disrepute" and that he had committed "serious misconduct".

However, after a recall petition failed, Mr Paisley retained his seat..

Mr Paisley thanked voters for their "unwavering support" and told the Guardian: “I am honoured and humbled by the overwhelming support I have received from the people of North Antrim.”

Of his suspension, he said: “I have taken what I still consider to be a severe punishment on the chin and I also think many a smaller man would have crumbled."

Now that the North Antrim MP is back on his green bench he is keen to get on with work and put his suspension firmly in the past.

Speaking exclusively to the Guardian last week, he said: “Back to Westminister this week couldn’t have been timed better given the activities and the intrigue.

“The parliamentary week commenced with business on Monday on the Finance bill.

“The party abstained on the vote disproving again the claim by my political opponents that my suspension would impact on crucial votes.

“Tuesday I was back into the thick of it with a meeting with the foreign office minister Alistair Burt MP to discuss Libya and compensation for victims of Libyan sponsored terrorism. This was an important meeting for victims and an ongoing project.

“Later I met the Chairman of the DCMS select committee for a presentation about the impact of the advertising association and its role post Brexit.

“Wednesday is always the busiest day in Parliament and this week was no exception.

“It started with an 8am meeting with the aerospace industry.

In light of 500 redundancies announced this week it proved to be very critical briefing.

“Then I was back to the NI select committee to question the Secretary of State this is the only time the minister is put through her paces.

“Obviously we have huge disagreements with the government on the withdrawal agreement. But at least it’s a civilised debate.

“Many will remember the acusationary terms under which other political agreements were debated and opponents accused of being anti peace. At least the government, for all its folly, appears resigned to the obvious opposition.

“I remain determined to oppose this government plan. We can get much better terms upon which to fulfil the wishes of the people to leave the EU.

“That afternoon was my first opportunity to participate in a full Debate in the house on the important matter of the fishing Bill.

“Later that evening I had a dinner and meeting with the Air Vice Marshal Phil Osborn CBE who leads on intelligence and I had a briefing about defence and security issues that I cannot elaborate on.

“On Thursday morning I got word the PM was planning a statement. This coincided with much publicity given to a meeting with manufacturers and business leaders with the PM.

“I took the opportunity to meet with some of these business leaders before attending the PM statement where I asked her a question on the political agreement.

“Earlier I attended a debate about Bombardier redundancies and questioned the minister about the supply chain.

“I got back home late on Thursday night and on Friday met with the chancellor and business leaders about the economy.

“Yes it’s good to be back in Parliament doing the job I was elected by the people to do.”

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