Patrick Mercer's parliamentary questions on Fiji

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MP Patrick Mercer has resigned the Conservative whip over allegations by the BBC's Panorama programme that he broke Parliament's lobbying rules.

The investigation focused on Mr Mercer's alleged lobbying on behalf of Fiji.

In recent months, he has tabled five parliamentary questions, as well as an Early Day Motion.

On 26 March, Mr Mercer put down an Early Day Motion that read:

"That this House recognises that the government of Fiji is making all reasonable efforts to restore democracy; believes that in the light of ongoing hardship being endured by its businesses, there is no justification for Fiji's continued suspension from the Commonwealth; and, therefore, urges the Government to arrange a ministerial visit in order to help prepare for and assist its readmission."

It was signed by four other MPs:

MP Seat Party Date

David Crausby

Bolton North East

Labour Party

10.04.2013

Jim Dobbin

Heywood & Middleton

Labour Party

15.04.2013

Mike Hancock

Portsmouth South

Liberal Democrats

10.04.2013

Alan Meale

Mansfield

Labour Party

26.03.2013

Mr Mercer asked the following written parliamentary question on 16 May 2013:

"To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs:

(1) what discussions his department has had with the government of Fiji about that country's human rights record;

(2) what discussions his department has had with the government of Fiji about the status of Fiji within the Commonwealth;

(3) what discussions his department has had with the government of Fiji about the effects on Fiji of its suspension from the Commonwealth;

(4) what his policy is on the readmission of Fiji to the Commonwealth; and if he will make a statement."

Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire responded: "We regularly raise our concerns about the human rights situation in Fiji with the Fijian authorities, including ministers, the civil service, police commissioners and election bodies. In view of the seriousness of the human rights situation, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has included Fiji as a 'country of concern' in its Annual Report on Human Rights for both 2011 and 2012.

"Further, in consultation with the British High Commission in Suva, the local EU delegation has issued a number of statements on the human rights situation in Fiji, including: concern around the political parties' registration decree; investigations into allegations of torture; and the importance of freedom of expression and assembly. We have also encouraged the local EU delegation to raise these issues with the Fijian foreign minister, which they did most recently earlier this month. We are encouraging the EU to pursue a dialogue on criteria for EU election observers. In view of the lack of democratic progress, EU development assistance to Fiji remains suspended.

"Fiji remains suspended from the Commonwealth until it returns to democracy. Our view is that should democracy in Fiji be restored through free and fair elections, we stand ready to consider further assistance, and look forward to the day Fiji is reinstated as a full member of the Commonwealth family. I used my visit to the region last month to make public statements on these points. I have spoken along similar lines to the Fijian high commissioner in London.

"I have encouraged the Commonwealth Secretary-General to continue his organisation's outreach to Fiji to discuss assistance that Fiji would need to enable a return to democracy. The British High Commission in Suva met a Commonwealth Secretariat needs-assessment mission that recently visited Fiji.

"In relation to all of these issues, we continue to work closely with our partners in the region, including Australia and New Zealand."

On 20 May 2013, Mr Mercer asked a second question:

"To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the UK's investment in public transport in Fiji; and if he will make a statement."

Mr Swire responded: "The Export Credit Guarantee Department (ECGD) has acted as guarantor to loans made by a German bank to the government-owned aviation company Air Pacific. This was to enable Air Pacific to purchase a Rolls-Royce engine. We are not aware of any other UK investment in public transport in Fiji."

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