Nov 23 2012
Jet-setting MPs have been criticised for racking up "freebie" overseas visits worth £1.5 million in the last two years.
Foreign governments, pressure groups and private companies have funded a raft of excursions to exotic locations for backbenchers, according to The Independent.
It found a number of MPs had accepted trips abroad and later made supportive speeches about those countries in Parliament.
Some 242 MPs have declared "fact-finding missions" and visits worth £6,500 on average, according to the newspaper.
One in five Conservative backbenchers had been taken on trips to Israel and Palestine since 2010, mostly on visits paid for by pro-Israeli lobbying groups, it found.
Former foreign secretary David Miliband was one of the highest-claiming MPs, taking 14 overseas trips costing £47,600 since losing out on the Labour leadership to his brother Ed, it was reported.
His spokesman said many of the visits were during parliamentary recesses or weekends and insisted outside activities "are fitted around parliamentary commitments".
While 36 visits were made to China and Hong Kong, 23 trips to India and 34 US only one MP accepted a trip to Afghanistan and just two were recorded visiting the closer to home destination of Belgium.
Tamasin Cave of the transparency group Spinwatch, told The Independent: "These freebies almost make Nadine's (Tory MP Nadine Dorries) trip to the jungle look well-judged. At least we can see what she's up to. MPs do need knowledge of other countries but the list of states that feel the need to court politicians includes many with dubious reputations. This is not a new game.
"London-based PR firms have for years laundered the reputations of countries with dreadful human rights records, but MPs should not be drawn into this. Let's hope they spend as much time talking to pro-democracy and opposition groups from those countries."