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Norman Baker MP: Foreign trips and rule breaches

Norman Baker
Norman Baker is the MP for Lewes

A BBC investigation has revealed that more than 20 MPs have breached rules in relation to registering and declaring overseas trips paid for by foreign governments.

The trips taken by Norman Baker, his relevant parliamentary activities and his reply to the BBC are below.

India/Tibet

Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes Norman Baker visited India, at the expense of the Tibet Society of the UK, in October 2007.

He again visited India in September 2008 to visit the Tibetan government-in-exile, which met his costs along with the Tibet Society.

Following these visits Mr Baker asked the following 21 questions relating to Tibet, along with two supplementary questions, without declaring an interest: 156141, 159320, 168233, 175894 with supplementary, 186588 with a supplementary, 198695, 202423, 210002, 220269 to 220271, 220371, 220372, 226717, 237783, 243953 to 243956, 249326 and 259345.

PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS
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On 1 April 2008, Mr Baker secured a debate on Tibet. Records of the Summary Agenda and the Weekly Information Bulletin indicate that he did not declare an interest. Whenever an interest is declared, the symbol "[R]" appears on the relevant notice or order papers.

Neither did Mr Baker declare an interest during the debate itself, although he did mention a recent visit.

Mr Baker also tabled the following early day motions relating to Tibet without declaring an interest:

1. 'DETENTION AND CONVICTION OF RONGYAL ADAK' / 13.11.2007 / EDM 216

2. 'IMPRISONMENT OF RUNGYEE ADAK IN TIBET' / 21.11.2007 / EDM 347

3. 'VISIT OF THE DALAI LAMA' / 20.02.2008 / EDM 984

4. 'BEHAVIOUR OF CHINESE FORCES IN TIBET' / 17.03.2008 / EDM 1201

5. 'HUMAN RIGHTS AND TIBET' / 28.04.2008 / EDM 1444

6. 'PRIME MINISTER'S MEETING WITH THE DALAI LAMA' / 14.05.2008 / EDM 1569

7. '50th ANNIVERSARY OF THE TIBETAN NATIONAL UPRISING' / 04.03.2009 / EDM 978

8. 'POLITICAL SITUATION IN TIBET' / 10.03.2009 / EDM 1034

In addition, Mr Baker signed the following early day motions relating to Tibet without declaring an interest:

9. 'DEATH PENALTY IN TIBET' / 28.04.2009 / EDM 1373

10. 'MEDIA FREEDOMS IN CHINA' / 05.12.2007 / EDM 476

11. 'HUMANITARIAN SUFFERING IN TIBET' / 22.04.2008 / EDM 1387

12. 'TIBET AND ASSURANCES FROM THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT' / 22.10.2008 / EDM 2331

13. 'VENERABLE PALDEN GYATSO AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN TIBET' / 05.03.2009 / EDM 998

Reply

In response, Mr Baker told the BBC: "I have had a long-standing interest in Tibet, preceding by many years the two visits to which you refer, and hold positions as vice-chair of the All-Party Tibet Group and President of the Tibet Society.

DECLARING FOREIGN TRIPS
Any MP who has an overseas trip paid for by a foreign government must register it within four weeks
They must declare a financial interest if it "might reasonably be thought by others to influence the speech, representation or communication in question"
This includes when tabling questions, motions, bills or amendments, and when speaking out during Commons proceedings
Members may not, for example, call for increased UK financial assistance to the government which provided the hospitality

"As these positions are unpaid, of course no declaration has been needed, though I have publicly referred to both positions on many occasions.

"In respect of the two visits to India, such visits have to be registered if the cost met from an external body constitutes more than 1% of salary.

"In fact, it was not clear in either case that this threshold had been breached, but I thought it right to declare these visits just in case.

"That notwithstanding, having decided that I would register these visits, I should have then declared a relevant interest in respect of the parliamentary activities you list.

"It is an unintended oversight that I did not, and I am grateful to you for drawing this to my attention."

Other MPs who have breached the rules:



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