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Ian Paisley challenges BBC over Maldives 'wrongdoing' evidence

media captionAny evidence of wrongdoing should be given to the parliamentary standards commissioner, says Ian Paisley

Ian Paisley has challenged the BBC to submit evidence about claims a Maldivian government minister paid for a luxury holiday taken by the DUP MP and his family.

He was speaking for the first time since a BBC Spotlight programme.

It alleged the government minister paid for part of the trip.

"If the BBC think I have done anything wrong, all the BBC has to do is to submit evidence to the Parliamentary Commissioner," he said.

"The independent authority can examine on all of those matters and make their own ruling.

"That's the only comment I can make."

New rules at Westminster mean that MPs' names are no longer routinely published if they are the subject of an investigation.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards only publishes information about individual investigations when they have ended.

Sinn Féin, the Alliance Party, the SDLP and the Ulster Unionists have all referred the matter to the standards commissioner.

image captionSeveral sources told BBC Spotlight that Mohamed Shainee paid for Ian Paisley's 2016 holiday

"I am always happy to talk at length to the BBC about all the matters and questions you may have," said Mr Paisley.

"I would love to be able to give you a running commentary but I am not able."

When asked if the North Antrim MP's constituents deserved a fuller explanation, Mr Paisley said: "Don't worry about my constituents; my constituents and me have a very good and sound relationship."

The DUP MP was previously suspended from Parliament in 2018 for 30 sitting days after he failed to declare two family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

What allegations have been made?

The BBC Spotlight programme alleged that Mohamed Shainee, a Maldivian government minister, paid for a luxury holiday taken by Mr Paisley and his family.

It reported the company that owned the resort where the family stayed said that Mr Shainee requested the accommodation and settled the payment.

It came eight months after North Antrim MP Mr Paisley visited the country and lobbied on its government's behalf.

image captionIan Paisley's wife Fiona tweeted about one of their holidays to the Maldives

Last December, a BBC Spotlight programme revealed that he did not declare details of the 2016 holiday to Parliament authorities.

Mr Paisley said at the time that he paid for part of the trip and a "long-term friend" who was unconnected to his work paid for the other part - BBC Spotlight has alleged that Mr Shainee was that friend.

After the programme, the DUP said they noted "the serious issues raised".

"We require high standards from our elected representatives. Discipline is an internal party matter. We do not give a running commentary."

A BBC spokesperson said: "This Spotlight investigation is now a matter of public record."

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